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N’Golo Kanté still out for FA Cup semifinal as Lampard talks up star man Pulisic

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Team news ahead of Manchester United on Sunday at Wembley

Chelsea Training Session Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Exactly one month since Premier League returned from the pandemic break and with just two games to go in the league, Chelsea are neck deep in a three-horse race for the final two Champions League positions.

But this weekend, the focus shifts to an actual trophy as the Blues take on one of those teams, Manchester United, in the FA Cup semifinal. While fixture congestion is an issue — though slightly less so for us with two extra days of rest since our last match compared to our opponents — Lampard and his young team will surely want to end the season on a high note.

Unfortunately, N’Golo Kanté still won’t be available to play. Not unexpectedly, Kanté’s “small” hamstring injury has proven to be a bigger issue than initially expected — two weeks and counting — proving once again that there is no such thing as a “small” hamstring injury.

On the plus side, everyone else is at least available (well, other than Billy Gilmour and Hakim Ziyech), with even Fikayo Tomori spotted in training lately as well, finally over his “small” injury that’s kept him out since the Restart.

"The squad is okay but N’Golo Kante won’t be fit for the match. He’s still not right so he’s out.

"Other than that, we have a few people with a few little niggles which we’ll monitor over the next 24 hours and then we will be ready to go."

While Lampard's Blues have been above Solsljær’s Red Devils in the table for the majority of the season, the head-to-head meetings between the two teams show an embarrassing three losses out of three for Chelsea — twice in the league and once in the League Cup. In fact, Chelsea have managed just 1 goal in the three games, giving up 8 total.

Perhaps fourth time would be the charm? It won’t be an easy task to overcome a Manchester United who have caught fire at exactly the right time, that’s for sure.

"We know they’re playing well. They have a very potent front three, probably the most potent front three in the country on pure numbers anyway and obviously [Bruno] Fernandes has made a huge difference since arriving in January. You see the strength that’s brought to their team with individual quality but we know that. We have to be confident in ourselves, deal with their threats and worry about us as well."

United may be the in-form team, but Chelsea have a great record since the Restart as well — even if the underlying performances haven’t always warranted those results. And we have our own standouts as well, including one Christian Pulisic.

His impact in the last month has been spectacular, causing an already uncomfortable number of comparisons with Eden Hazard as well as the usual contrarian social media backlash against anything popular these days.

Overreactions, good or bad, are to be expected unfortunately with this many eyeballs, on both sides of the pond, following Pulisic’s every move, but the 21-year-old’s performances are proving Lampard’s man-management right. Pulisic was eased in at the start of the season and has overcome an annoying adductor injury to become a shining star already — and it’s only his first season in the Premier League!

Lampard gives credit to the young man for working hard on improving his game, including the all-important physical side after 12-18 months of various injury issues.

"I’ve seen real improvement in his all-round game. Coming to the Premier League is very difficult because of the physical nature of the league. We have to remember how young Christian is and also the summer that he had.

"I think he found those physical demands pretty strong in the beginning and now you’re seeing him deal with those better. A lot of that is a credit to himself and how he’s approached it — he’s worked with our strength and conditioning coach Adam Burrows, who’s fantastic, but they’ve worked together so it’s Christian who has to take on that responsibility and he has.

"Physically that’s helped him but it’s also just his talent is coming through. Looking forward, I want to see more of what he’s shown in recent times which is goals and assists because that’s what the best in the world do in that position. I feel he has the capability to do that as he improves and that can be the edge as his game moves on levels."

-Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC

Let’s hope Pulisic and the team can rise to the occasion!