Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel will be heaving a huge sigh of relief that N’Golo Kante came through 45 minutes of EFL Cup football without any injury as they prepare to face Manchester City at Stamford Bridge tomorrow.
Of the 11 starters in Wednesday night’s penalty shoot-out victory over Aston Villa, Kante is a shoe-in to face Pep Guardiola’s wounded champions.
Tuchel gave the French midfielder the captain’s armband and replaced him at half-time.
The game ended 1-1 after 90 minutes – Timo Werner heading the west Londoners’ goal.
Tuchel said: “It was a good game full of energy, good chances on both sides between two teams who tried everything to win.
“It was a nice game to watch, to be in the stadium for. This is also part of what we do, to have entertainment. I’m happy because we won, it was a hard one, and now we have some competitive minutes in more players’ legs.
“We had many changes, the team had never played in this formation. This needs a bit of time on the field, but it was important we don’t expect too much in terms of how we create chances. We expected energy and teamwork, and this is what we got out of it. With every minute we got more confident.”
Of Werner, who has not started a league games since the 3-0 win in the opener of the season against Crystal Palace, Tuchel said: “We brought him into a situation where he can score. This is what we want, and then it’s on him to score. That’s why he is here. It’s the best feeling for a striker to score.”
At the other end, Kepa Arrizabalagawas played in successive matches following a rib injury to Edouard Mendy. Tuchel said: “Kepa is very strong at penalties. He has good experiences in shoot-outs so we focused on that.
“The players kept their cool. It’s a nice win and I’m happy because it was a tough match, a hard cup fight, and it’s a good feeling to win.”
Chelsea Women face a difficult WSL match against Manchester United at the Leigh Sports Village.
The Blues drew 1-1 there in the first fixture last season before going on to become champions. But they are playing three points behind league leaders Brighton, who just edge out Arsenal and United on goal difference.
The Blues always feel most vulnerable after they have returned from international duty and just about every player was away on World Cup qualifying duty or playing in friendlies.
England players Millie Bright and Fran Kirby will go straight into the side. Beth England, who scored in both England matches, will be back on the bench for the Blues.
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