Graham Potter discovers N'Golo Kante alternative in Leeds win ahead of Chelsea injury return


Graham Potter may have discovered the perfect player to play in N'Golo Kante's midfield role ahead of the Frenchman's return from injury. There was good news on Monday as Kante trained once again having started to do some warm-up work with the first team squad last week.

The France international's contract at Stamford Bridge is set to expire this summer despite the club hoping to keep hold of their star midfielder after a torrid season hampered by injury. Kante is thought to be keen on extending his stay with Chelsea suggesting an agreement can be reached before the summer transfer window.

Potter explained in his press conference ahead of the defeat against Tottenham that the plan was for Kante to be involved in more training sessions at the start of March before returning to the matchday squad. The Chelsea boss said:

"They [Kante and Pulisic] are making progress and joining in the warm-ups -t hey will be more integrated next week, so that is good."

Another player who returned to training this week after being absent in the defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was Mateo Kovacic. The Croatian midfielder missed the clash against Spurs through illness but started in the win against Leeds United at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon.

Kovacic has been linked with a move to Manchester City this week with his current deal set to expire in 2024. Potter may be keen on keeping the 28-year-old at Stamford Bridge for a little while longer after his performance against Leeds highlighted his ability to fill the void left by Kante.

The Croatia international lined up alongside £106million January signing Enzo Fernandez in a more defensive role, tasked with stopping Leeds' attacking moves and bringing the ball out from defence in transition. He excelled in this role that Potter had assigned to him as Kovacic made more successful tackles (6/9) than any other player for either Chelsea or Leeds.

Kante has been renowned and praised for his defensive ability to break up play and win back possession from the opposition team after being a standout performer in Leicester City's historic Premier League title-winning season. The Frenchman continued his brilliant form into his time at Stamford Bridge and has been a huge miss for the Blues this season.

Whilst Potter will be excited by the prospect of finally being able to play Kante with the 31-year-old yet to play a single minute of football under the former Brighton boss, Kovacic's performance has highlighted a potential alternative option to be used throughout the remainder of the campaign as Kante continues his recovery.

Chelsea will not want to rush the France international back after he aggravated his injury in December last year, keeping him out for a further three months, meaning Kovacic could continue in that role for the next few games.

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