Chelsea confirm Kante’s absence; Rudiger, Hudson-Odoi return

Joe Prince-Wright
NBC Sports

Things haven’t gone so smoothly for Chelsea’s new manager Frank Lampard this season (still weird to be saying he’s their boss, but I’ll crack on…) and their trip to Wolves on Saturday just got tougher.

N’Golo Kante has been ruled out of the clash at Molineux (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) due to a reoccurring ankle problem.

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The superstar defensive midfielder has only played 107 minutes so far this season in the Premier League and Lampard revealed that the situation hasn’t improved.

“N’Golo is not fit, Kovacic is,’ Lampard added. “This game has come too soon for him, hopefully close. We are waiting for that final step, but hopefully that will be the same time.”

Mateo Kovacic has done okay alongside Jorginho in central midfield, but a fit and fired up Kante makes such a huge difference to Chelsea’s defensive system and he has been badly missed so far. In a game against Wolves, a team who will seriously challenge Chelsea for a place in the top six this season, not having Kante is crucial.

But on the positive side of things Antonio Rudiger is back and is ready to solidify a shaky Chelsea defense, as both Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen have been struggling at center back.

Lampard believes Rudiger should be ready to be a leader in this young Chelsea side.

“He’s fit. It’s a choice for myself, but he will have an important role,” Lampard said. “We have missed him as we have with a few more front line players. It is important in a team. I don’t want a young team for the sake of it. He can be influential. He is ready to take on those roles.”

More good news has also arrived for Lampard on the injury front, as Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James will play for Chelsea’s U23 side against Brighton on Friday as they step up their comebacks.

The return of Hudson-Odoi, still just 18 years old, will be a huge boost and give Lampard some much-needed competition in wide areas as the Blues continue to struggle with the summer departure of Eden Hazard. He injured his Achilles in April after bursting onto the scene for club and country, but has made a quicker than expected recovery.

“Callum will play for the U23s along with Reece James,” Lampard confirmed. “He has been training for a while but there are some issues to make sure that he’s okay. It will be great to see that.”

CHO’s return may not be good news for Christian Pulisic, as the USMNT star will now be in direct competition with the England international who is expected to be one of the best-ever players to come through Chelsea’s academy.

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