Chelsea have travelled to Sweden for Tuesday’s Champions League clash against Malmo without midfielder N’Golo Kante, who has remained in London for ‘treatment and recovery’.
Kante complained of muscle fatigue in the build-up to the 7-0 victory over Norwich, for which he was rested, but he managed 64 minutes against Newcastle at the weekend before being replaced by a more attack-minded substitute.
He did not appear to be injured at that point, and manager Thomas Tuchel did not reveal any fitness struggles during his pre-match press conference, but a squad update on Chelsea’s official website before the game revealed that Kante has not travelled.
There is no mention of why Kante has been left at home, instead just a sentence saying he has joined Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner, Mason Mount and Mateo Kovacic for an extra spell of ‘treatment and recovery’.
Tuchel’s lack of update on Kante suggests that the Frenchman is not actually injured and is simply being rested for a fixture in which the boss believes he will not be required.
Chelsea thumped Malmo 4-0 just a few weeks ago, with Kante playing over an hour in that game, so Tuchel appears to be giving the Frenchman a little extra time to rest his muscles before the return to league action against Burnley on Saturday.
With Kante sidelined, Chelsea are a little short for numbers in midfield. Jorginho, Saul Niguez and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are all available, while Ross Barkley is a more attacking alternative if Tuchel wants him.
There’s also a spot in the squad for 18-year-old academy starlet Harvey Vale, an attacking midfielder who has also operated as a winger this season.
Chelsea enter the game as heavy favourites to win and will be seeking three points which could be vital to their chances of topping their group.
Tuchel’s men trail Juventus by three points – a consequence of the 1-0 defeat in Turin in September.