Chelsea’s new manager Graham Potter will be without first-choice goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and talismanic midfielder N’Golo Kante, with both players ruled out of tonight’s Champions League clash against Austrian giants Red Bull Salzburg.
Taking to his first pre-match press conference as Blues manager on Tuesday, the 47-year-old issued an update on his squad ahead of his first game in charge of the west Londoners.
He told reporters (via football.london): “Eddie [Mendy] will miss the game, so will NG [Kante]. Apart from that everybody is fit. Eddie has responded well, but his knee has bothered him for a bit. I don’t think it’ll be long, but we need to give him some time.”
According to football.london, Mendy was struggling to be fit for Chelsea’s proposed clash against Fulham at Craven Cottage last Saturday, but the game did not go ahead due to the Premier League’s decision to call off the weekend fixture schedule as a mark of respect following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
As per the same source, Mendy has been undergoing treatment during the opening days of Potter’s reign at Chelsea and did not feature in the first-team training session on Tuesday morning.
Kante is another absentee, having not featured for the club since mid-August after sustaining a hamstring injury in the clash against Tottenham Hotspur. The France international is not expected to return until after the international break, which comes as yet another setback for Potter and co.
His absence will deprive the Blues of one of their hardest workers, with the ex-Leicester dynamo making more tackles per game (2.3) than all but one of his team-mates in 2021/22, an industrious presence which could be missed tonight.
Others can step up
Both players will be a miss for the new manager, but it does of course give others the chance to impress.
Kepa Arrizabalaga will get the chance to reassert himself as first-choice goalkeeper, having clawed his way back into contention in recent times. He has an average save percentage of 73.9% over the past 12 months, bettering that of Mendy’s 66.9%.
The latter’s mistakes of recent mean that the competition between the two seems closer than ever, so the Spaniard will likely get a small head-start in the match against Salzburg tonight.
It’s a tough blow to be without two regulars in Mendy and Kante, but it does give Potter a chance to analyse Chelsea’s squad options in greater detail, in what is a big night for both manager and club.