Thomas Tuchel has dismissed fears that N’Golo Kante’s spate of hamstring injuries could diminish the France World Cup winner’s midfield dynamism.
Kante will start Thursday’s FA Cup fifth-round clash at Barnsley in a much-changed Blues line-up, with new boss Tuchel delighted by the 29-year-old’s return to fitness.
The France international has shaken off his latest hamstring issue to be ready for the midweek trip to Oakwell – and now Tuchel has tipped him to rediscover his classic aggressive, ball-winning best form.
“I’m absolutely not concerned about his quality: from what I see on the pitch in games and what I see on the pitch at Cobham, it’s everything I expected – and I expected a lot, I can tell you,” Tuchel said.
“I’m a huge fan and I can see the input he has on teams, he makes teams better, he makes guys around him feel comfortable.
“He has the mentality of a water-carrier, but on such a high level.
“What I see here in possession games, what I see here in acceleration, what I see here in passing ability, is absolutely outstanding, and it’s all combined in such a humble personality. So I am absolutely not concerned.
“I’m absolutely not concerned about any more injuries also, because I feel a support of quality medical and physical department on the highest level.
“We can manage his minutes and his workload, and we take care about him in all physical aspects for what he needs.
Kante returned from his latest muscle injury issue to step off the bench in closing stages of Chelsea’s 1-0 Premier League win at Tottenham.
The former Leicester player then helped the Blues close out Sunday’s 2-1 win at Sheffield United, again enjoying a late cameo.
Tuchel reiterated his sizeable regard for Kante’s abilities, as the combative midfielder edges towards full match sharpness.
“I think N’Golo fits into any manager’s plans on the planet,” the former Paris St Germain boss said.
“I was desperate to have him in my teams in the past. He is a big Chelsea player and one of the best midfielders in the world. So I am so lucky to have him in my squad and that he is back fit again.
“If you look at his performances coming back from injury, we put him on the pitch against Tottenham with no minutes.
“That was really difficult but he helped everybody on the pitch with his support, mentality, and quality, which is what he does.
“If you see the step he took in training between the Tottenham match and Sheffield United, the 30 minutes he played (against Sheffield United) was a huge performance.
“We switched to a three in the midfield and this helped us escape the pressure and be in control of the game again.
“I am very, very impressed. We’ve known him for many years very well because we’ve come from a French club.
“We were very impressed from the television but to see him live, to see how he works, how humble he is, the quality he gives to the team, it’s a gift to be his coach. I am so happy.”