EPL

Tuchel humbled to work with Kante at Chelsea: 'He makes teams better'

By Sports Desk February 10, 2021

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is delighted to have the chance to finally work with N'Golo Kante, a midfielder who "makes teams better".

Due to a hamstring injury, Kante has made just two substitute appearances since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard in charge at Stamford Bridge last month. 

However, he has been deemed fit enough to start Thursday's FA Cup tie with Barnsley and Tuchel has talked up the qualities of the France international, who was strongly linked with Paris Saint-Germain during the German coach's time in charge at the Ligue 1 club.

"I think N'Golo fits into any manager's plans on the planet. I was desperate to have him in my teams [in the past]," Tuchel told reporters. 

"I am so happy to have him back again. We put him on the pitch against Tottenham and he helped everybody on the pitch, which is what he does. 

"To see the guy live, to see how he works, how humble he is, the quality he gives to the team. I am so humble to be his coach. He will start tomorrow." 

Kante has made 26 appearances in all competitions this term, 19 of which have come in the Premier League. 

The former Leicester City player ranks particularly high for interceptions - only six players in the division to have played at least 13 games have managed more per 90 minutes than Kante's average of 2.32. 

For all of the midfielder's undoubted quality, though, keeping him fit is now the biggest challenge for Tuchel. 

"I'm not concerned about any more injuries because I feel the support and quality of the medical department," he said. "We can manage his minutes and workload and take care of him. I'm not concerned about his quality.  

"What I see on the pitches here at Cobham is, how can I put it, everything I expected - and I expected a lot because I am a huge fan of him. 

"I can see the input he has on teams. He makes teams better. He has the mentality of a water carrier but on such a high level." 

Tuchel also confirmed at Wednesday's pre-match news conference that Hakim Ziyech will play a part against Championship side Barnsley. 

Ziyech's first season at the club has been hampered by injuries and Tuchel has challenged the Morocco winger to regain the type of form he displayed at Ajax. 

"Hakim is another one who hopefully tomorrow we will see the best of him," the German coach said. "We count on Hakim to do something different, no doubt about that.  

"He has lots of quality and we count on him like everyone else. He has had a good training week and will have the chance to show the same quality he shows in training." 

"For me it's clear he needs to adapt to this kind of football, this kind of league. He's come from a strong Ajax squad, but they were the benchmark in the league. 

"And it's not the same intensity and it's not the same competition as it is here. But he's adapting, and he has the certain quality to decide matches and the certain quality to do the unexpected." 

Thiago Silva remains on the sidelines with a hamstring problem, although Tuchel provided a positive update on the veteran defender's injury. 

"He feels better and better, which is good, and he's getting the right treatment," he said. 

"One thing we can be sure of with Thiago is that he will be spending every minute available to him to speed up the process of healing. It is a muscle injury, though, so we cannot force it and we will wait for Thiago."

Chelsea have been eliminated from just two of their previous 54 FA Cup ties against opponents from a lower division, though one of those instances was against Barnsley, back in the 2007-08 season.

"We play every competition to win it," Tuchel said. "Every round in a cup competition is the most important round.

"It's an elimination game so we have to be totally focused and on point tomorrow when the match starts. Winning the competition would be huge. It's one of the most prestigious cups in the world and it's played at Wembley. 

"Even as a little boy in Germany, with no internet or sports channel, you know the words Wembley for sure. It's a big, big game to play in and a big goal to achieve. But tomorrow is the most important game."​

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