The clock had barely ticked past 10 minutes on Monday night before N’Golo Kante went down with an apparent groin injury, in what turned out to be just the first of many annoying, frustrating, bewildering developments in the 2-0 loss against Manchester United.
After the game, Chelsea head Frank Lampard could not put his customary positive spin on anything from the preceding 90 minutes, including Kante’s injury, confirming that it was a groin strain (adductor, to be specific) and that it “doesn’t look good”.
The scans that have since been conducted reportedly confirm the diagnosis. L’Equipe (via Sport Witness) claim that the injury is a grade 2 strain, which would mean at least a 3-week recovery period. Even at the earliest, Kante would not be back until mid-March — before the March international break, if we’re lucky, but most likely just after, as we will probably take it slow and easy with the suddenly oft-injured midfielder.
If Kante doesn’t return until after the March international break — Chelsea resume play on April 4, away to West Ham — he will have missed the entirety of the most crucial period of the season. Our upcoming fixtures include both legs of the Champions League Round of 16 tie against Bayern Munich, the FA Cup Round of 16 match against Liverpool, and of course the now incredibly tight top-four/-five race, with home six-pointers against Spurs and Everton, away must-wins against Bournemouth and Aston Villa, and a scary home game against Manchester City. (Then again, what game isn’t scary at this point?)
Then again, is Kante part of our strongest XI at this point? The answer to that question is no longer a resounding yes, which may be the saddest part of all.