REUTERS - Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante is facing nearly a month on the sidelines with a muscular injury he picked up during the international break, his manager Antonio Conte said ahead of Saturday’s Premier League trip to Crystal Palace.
The France international limped off clutching his hamstring during last week’s 1-0 World Cup qualifying victory in Bulgaria and missed his country’s next game against Belarus on Tuesday.
An initial scan suggested the 26-year-old would be out for up to 25 days, but Conte is hoping a second one will give him better news.
“For sure it’s a muscular problem, a hamstring,” Conte told a news conference on Friday. “This is a big loss for us. You know very well the importance of N’Golo Kante in our team. We don’t have another player with the same characteristics.
“For this reason, we are going to do another scan after one week to understand the situation very well, and see if this scan is better than the scan before.”
The champions, fourth in the table on 13 points after seven games, have league matches against Watford and Bournemouth, as well as a Champions League double-header with Roma and a League Cup clash with Everton this month.
They face second-placed Manchester United on Nov. 5, and with Tiemoue Bakayoko and Cesc Fabregas the only specialist central midfielders available, Conte might have to turn to his defenders or younger players to step in for Kante.
“We have to find different solutions in this period, to adapt some defenders in midfield, or give opportunities to young players like (Kyle) Scott or (Ethan) Ampadu,” he said.
Striker Alvaro Morata is also out of the trip to Selhurst Park after injuring a hamstring in the 1-0 home defeat by Manchester City at the end of September, but could be back in time to face Roma on Wednesday.
New signing Danny Drinkwater, who is yet to play for the club, is still out with a calf problem and Conte will be patient with the former Leicester City midfielder.
“Drinkwater is progressing well but is not ready yet,” the Italian added. “We must have patience with him, with his calf problem.”
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge