N’Golo Kante could make Chelsea return against Everton as Graham Potter urges caution
N’Golo Kante could make his first appearance since the second week of the season when Chelsea host Everton on Saturday.
The midfielder has been out of action since August with a hamstring injury, but Blues boss Graham Potter has confirmed that he may rejoin the squad this weekend.
Potter admitted Kante has been a “huge miss” for Chelsea and they have struggled in his absence. The Blues are currently sat 10th in the Premier League and 11 points off the Champions League places, albeit with a game in hand.
But asked if Kante could feature against Everton at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, Potter said: “[He has a] chance of being in the squad. It’s the first time, so it’s fantastic, great.
“There will be managers before me that have spoken very highly of N’Golo because he is a top, top player.
“He is a huge miss to us. He has been a huge miss to us. That’s not to say the other players haven’t given absolutely everything, because they have.
“But N’Golo Kante is N’Golo Kante. He is a top player. So it’s great for us that he’s back. We need to be mindful of the fact that he’s had a long injury.
“We need to make the next steps to get him up to speed properly in the Premier League, which is what we will do, but it’s great to have him with us.”
Kante’s return for Chelsea now would be ideal timing as it would give him a chance to get fully fit ahead of the Champions League quarter-finals next month.
Chelsea have drawn Real Madrid and will travel to the Spanish capital on April 11 or 12 for the first leg before hosting the holders the following week.
Potter, however, has insisted that Chelsea would be cautious with Kante no matter what games were on the horizon.
“My own thoughts on it are that when you have had a player with that injury and that length, you have to take those steps regardless,” Potter said.
“And whatever our situation is you have to take steps to get him up to speed, get him up to being the player that he is in a responsible way and doing it as safely as we can, which enables him to take the right steps to get forward.
“Once he is at his highest level then he is a huge player for us.”
Chelsea have a tough draw in the Champions League as if they beat Real they will face either Bayern Munich or Manchester City in the semi-finals.
“We will focus on Real Madrid when we get there, but at the moment it’s Everton,” said Potter. “The feeling is excited, but I’d rather speak about Everton because that’s the game tomorrow and the other stuff is a long way away.”
Kante may be back this weekend, but Chelsea will be without England pair Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling. Defenders Cesar Azpilicueta and Thiago Silva are out too.
“Raheem has got a problem with his hamstring. It’s not too serious but he will miss the game at the weekend and he’ll miss the international trip,” said Potter.
“It’s the same with Mason. Mason has been struggling a little bit with his pubic bone. He wasn’t 100 per cent the last game. He is still not quite there, so he will miss the England camp as well.
“Thiago is still away, Azpi is still away.”