EPL

'He is our Mo Salah' – Tuchel wants fix for Kante's fitness issues

By Sports Desk May 19, 2022

Thomas Tuchel said Chelsea must find a solution to N'Golo Kante's fitness struggles after the Blues came from a goal down to draw 1-1 with Leicester City.

Marcos Alonso volleyed home to cancel out James Maddison's opener in front of Todd Boehly, part of a consortium looking to take ownership of the club, with the Blues all but securing a third-place finish in the Premier League despite having won just one of their last five league games (three draws, one loss).

Tuchel's men have now drawn 11 league games during a frustrating season, more than they have managed in a single campaign since recording 10 stalemates when finishing 10th in 2015-16.

World Cup winner Kante played the first 72 minutes against his former club before being replaced by Ruben Loftus-Cheek, but has been linked with a move away with his Stamford Bridge contract due to expire in 2023.

The 31-year-old has only started 20 of the Blues' 37 league games this term, featuring for a total of just 1,688 minutes in the Premier League and missing out entirely on 12 of the team's league fixtures.

Speaking in his post-match press conference, Tuchel said the midfielder was Chelsea's "key player", stressing the need to resolve his fitness issues.

Tuchel also likened Kante to the players such as Mohammed Salah, Kylian Mbappe and several other world stars, claiming he lifts the rest of the side when fit.

"I think he is our key, key, key player, but key, key, key players need to be on the pitch. He plays only 40 per cent of the games, so then it is maybe a miracle that we arrive in third place," Tuchel said.

"He is our Mo Salah, he is our [Virgil] van Dijk, he is our [Kevin] De Bruyne. He is simply that player, he is our Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

"He is that guy who makes the difference and if you only have him for 40 per cent then it is a huge problem. Given that percentage, it is maybe a miracle that he produces results. 

"It puts everything into perspective as I saw Liverpool without Van Dijk last season and they struggled heavily. You see the difference. N'Golo is our key player and we need him on the pitch.

"It's hard to live with. It's important for him to be there and to have the rhythm. I think he played okay but he can play so much better. But when was the last game he started? It was weeks ago. So he constantly starts getting rhythm, but once he has that, there comes a little injury and he's out again.

"Last year, in the last five matches of the Champions League, he got the [man of the match] trophy. This guy who gets man of the match in every Champions League game, he is only here for 40-something per cent of the matches. This is huge for us."

Meanwhile, Chelsea were once again left to rely on their wing-backs to provide attacking impetus against the Foxes, with Reece James claiming his eighth league assist of the season by teeing up Alonso's goal.

James has now created twice as many goals this season as in his previous two Premier League campaigns combined (four assists in 56 appearances), while the Blues also racked up 20 shots to Leicester's two over the course of the contest.

Christian Pulisic was guilty of missing Chelsea's best chance to claim a second-half winner as the hosts created 1.64 expected goals (xG) to the Foxes' 0.09, and while Tuchel was content with his team's performance, he was again left to bemoan their lack of cutting edge.  

"We were the better team and deserved to win," he added. "We didn't allow any chances and got punished by a shot from outside the box. We created enough to win, didn't allow transitions and chances for Leicester. So, I am fine with the performance.

"It's a bit of a broken record, we did not take what we deserve. We needed a goal from a wing-back and an assist from a wing-back."

Chelsea will round off their Premier League campaign with another home match on Sunday, when relegated Watford travel to Stamford Bridge.

Related items

  • Sporting Kansas City v Real Salt Lake: Mastroeni confident visitors can maintain road streak Sporting Kansas City v Real Salt Lake: Mastroeni confident visitors can maintain road streak

    Pablo Mastroeni is pleased with the strides Real Salt Lake have made on the road this season and is hopeful they can cause more problems at Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday.

    RSL sit top of the Western Conference, one point clear of LAFC, with a 0-0 draw away at CF Montreal at the weekend extending their unbeaten streak.

    They have not lost any of their last 14 matches in the MLS and are unbeaten in their last nine on the road.

    Mastroeni has been impressed with his team's progress, particularly their performances on the road.

    "I'm really pleased with the mindset, and I feel like as a group we're starting to really understand moments and really control games as to the way we want to play," said Mastroeni.

    "Going to any stadium away from home, it's very difficult to [get wins] but I feel we've made great strides in that direction over the course of the season.

    "It's taken us 18 games to get to a point where we feel like we can go on the road and really dictate large portions of the games. I feel like we're getting really brave with our performances and I'm pleased with the progress we're making."

    Meanwhile, Sporting KC sit 13th and are seven points behind the playoff places having won just one of their last 12 matches in the league.

    After a 4-2 defeat to LA Galaxy at the weekend, head coach Peter Vermes has admitted he may need to bring in reinforcements in the upcoming transfer window.

    "Over the next two to three windows we're going to have to be very active," Vermes said. "If it happens? I can't tell you if it does or not. We need players on all three lines, for sure."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Sporting Kansas City – Johnny Russell

    Russell has scored seven goals in 15 career matches against Real Salt Lake in all competitions. He has only scored more goals against Houston Dynamo (eight) since he joined Sporting in 2018.

    Real Salt Lake – Cristian Arango

    Real Salt Lake are on a nine-match unbeaten run on the road in the MLS, though they were held to a 0-0 draw against Montreal last weekend. Arango was their biggest threat in that game, having six shots, though he could not find a breakthrough.

    MATCH PREDICTION: REAL SALT LAKE WIN

    Real Salt Lake defeated Sporting Kansas City at home, 1-0, in May 4 in the first meeting between the sides this season. RSL have won five of their eight matches against Sporting (D1 L2, incl. playoffs) since the beginning of the 2021 season.

    Real Salt Lake extended their regular-season unbeaten run to 14 games (W8 D6) with a scoreless draw at Montreal on Saturday, equaling the longest single-season run in club history (July-October 2010).

    Meanwhile, Sporting Kansas City's 4-2 defeat to the Galaxy on Saturday was their eighth defeat in their last nine regular-season matches. Sporting have not lost nine times in a span of 10 regular-season matches in the post-shootout era (since 2000).

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Sporting Kansas City – 32.2%

    Draw – 25.4%

    Real Salt Lake – 42.4%

  • Inter Miami v Columbus Crew: Black & Gold aim for further road joy against gutsy Herons Inter Miami v Columbus Crew: Black & Gold aim for further road joy against gutsy Herons

    Inter Miami are sitting comfortably at the top of the Eastern Conference table but face a challenge on Thursday when Columbus Crew visit for an MLS clash at Chase Stadium.

    The Herons are two points clear at the summit of the East standings after snatching a 2-1 triumph over Philadelphia Union last time out.

    Yet Wilfried Nancy's Crew have triumphed in their last four road games in the league, battling to a 3-2 victory over New York City FC at Yankee Stadium on Friday.

    "It's a massive run and just shows how good we are mentally" Mohamed Farsi said of the streak.

    "I think we have more away wins right now than last year all season. I think so or the same, so I'm happy for that."

    Farsi has become a central figure for Columbus and scored the go-ahead goal in the 53rd minute against the Pigeons, much to the delight of head coach Nancy.

    "The idea for Mo is to be more consistent because he brings a lot of energy to the team," Nancy said.

    "He wants also to show himself that he's a better player than last year when we had the same deal here. Good for him.

    "Now, he knows that he has to work on certain things, but I'm happy for him. He's doing a good job."

    Despite missing Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Matis Rojas – all of whom are on Copa America duty – the nine-man Herons overcame the Union thanks to Leo Afonso's last-gasp strike.

    "It is clear that in 10 times, nine of these games we would end up losing," Miami head coach Gerardo Martino said.

    "Absolutely all the credit belongs to them. That has to do with the effort, with the character, with the guts that the boys had."

    Afonso echoed his coach's sentiment ahead of another crunch match-up.

    "It's difficult when you're missing the best players in history in their positions," he said. "But we got to keep working, and we got to try our best."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Inter Miami – Jordi Alba

    With stars Messi and Suarez on international duty, Jordi Alba will be expected to step up once more for the Herons.

    The former Barcelona full-back has two goals this year in MLS, as well as five assists – that creative tally is only bettered by Messi (13) and Julian Gressel (six) among Miami team-mates.

    Columbus Crew – Diego Rossi

    Diego Rossi remains an integral figure in attack for the Crew, whose Javier Hernandez (five goals) has only scored more than the forward's four in 10 MLS games this year.

    With other Uruguayan colleagues at the Copa, Rossi will hope to extend his fine scoring form here.

    MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW

    Miami may be leading the way in the East but a draw appears the most likely outcome at Chase Stadium.

    The Herons have never lost a home match against the Crew (W2 D1), though Columbus did earn their first away point against David Beckham's Miami-based side on the last visit to Fort Lauderdale, a 2-2 draw in July 2023.

    Martino will hope to continue a strong run of form with another victory, however.

    Miami have won eight of their last 11 regular-season matches (D2 L1) following a 2-1 victory at Philadelphia on Saturday. Since that run began in mid-April, Martino's side have managed 26 points and scored 28 goals – both league-leading figures.

    Yet Columbus should not be ruled out for a win either.

    The Crew have won four straight regular-season away matches for the second time in club history after a four-match run in August-September 2015.

    Columbus have lost only one of their last 11 regular-season road matches, dating back to last September (W5 D5), and that streak could continue here.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Inter Miami win – 37.4%

    Columbus Crew win – 36.3%

    Draw – 26.4%

  • Mbappe injury leaves Deschamps concerned after France's Euro 2024 triumph Mbappe injury leaves Deschamps concerned after France's Euro 2024 triumph

    Kylian Mbappe suffering a late head injury marred France's Euro 2024 victory over Austria as Didier Deschamps was left concerned about the Les Bleus star.

    The Real Madrid-bound attacker sustained a blow to his nose after an aerial challenge with Austria's Kevin Danso before Mbappe was withdrawn on Monday.

    France held on for a 1-0 victory in Dusseldorf to move level with fellow Group D leaders Netherlands, but Deschamps will have to sweat over Mbappe's fitness before facing Ronald Koeman's men on Friday.

    "[His] nose is not good at all," the France head coach, who hit 100 wins in charge of his country with the victory over Ralf Rangnick's side, told reporters.

    "Even if it's just the nose, it's the big negative point for us tonight."

    Mbappe missed a gilt-edged opportunity in the second half as his wait for a European Championship goal continued.

    The former Paris Saint-Germain man remains without a goal from a total of 18 shots in the tournament, while he has registered 12 strikes from 39 attempts at the World Cup.

    Mbappe played the cross in for Max Wober's decisive first-half own-goal, however, as the centre-back's inadvertent error proved the difference in the pair's tournament opener.

    France are the first European side at major tournaments (World Cup/Euros) to benefit from 10 own-goals, four more than any other side – Germany are the next best on six.

    Deschamps was still satisfied with Les Bleus' work, though acknowledged their failure in front of goal.

    "Happy with what the players did even if we missed opportunities to double the tally," he added. "It was not perfect but we were solid.

    "We could have been more efficient offensively but it's good to start with a win.

    "There's quality and talent but being solid and working together is also important. We're not going to be over-confident, but it's a good start."

    N'Golo Kante was named as the Player of the Match after his efficient display in midfield, having only returned to the international setup for this tournament after a two-year absence.

    No France player made more successful tackles than Kante's two (level with Jules Kounde), while the midfielder's pair of interceptions marked the most for Les Bleus.

    "Everything was not perfect but we have the result we wanted, this is a good start," Kante said. "There are solid foundations, we have to be more efficient.

    "It makes me happy to be back. Things have changed, makes it feels good to get back into this jersey."

    The defeat ended a run of seven games without a loss for Austria in all competitions (W6 D1), while it was only their second reverse in their last 17 matches (W12 D3).

    Yet former Manchester United boss Rangnick refused to point the blame at any of Austria's players.

    "We are all very disappointed... we allowed France to go ahead, they didn't shoot their goal, it was an unlucky own goal by us," Rangnick said.

    "I think no one can accuse the team of not being engaged enough, not running enough. They gave their everything.

    "They didn't always make the right decisions with the ball. But it isn't easy, the French were aggressive, and played compactly and that wasn't a surprise."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.