N’Golo Kante will not be available for selection for this weekend’s FA Cup semi-final after failing to recover in time from a troublesome hamstring injury.
The news was delivered by Frank Lampard at the manager’s pre-match press conference, broadcast via video link from the media room at Cobham, in which the boss also updated on the fitness of the rest of his players.
‘The squad is okay but N’Golo Kante won’t be fit for the match,’ revealed Lampard. ‘He’s still not right so he’s out.
‘Other than that, we have a few people with a few little niggles which we’ll monitor over the next 24 hours and then we will be ready to go.’
Manchester United stand in between us and a place in the FA Cup final, the Red Devils having beaten us three times already this season, and Lampard has acknowledged the quality of their attacking players in particular.
‘We know they’re playing well,’ he reflected. ‘They have a very potent front three, probably the most potent front three in the country on pure numbers anyway and obviously [Bruno] Fernandes has made a huge difference since arriving in January.
‘You see the strength that’s brought to their team with individual quality but we know that. We have to be confident in ourselves, deal with their threats and worry about us as well.’
Christian Pulisic’s impact could be significant on the big stage as the American prepares to play at Wembley for the first time in a Chelsea shirt and Lampard has pinpointed his physical improvement as key to his recent run of good form. The 21-year-old has three goals since the restart and set up Olivier Giroud’s winner against Norwich City last time out.
‘I’ve seen real improvement in his all-round game,’ added Lampard. ‘Coming to the Premier League is very difficult because of the physical nature of the league. We have to remember how young Christian is and also the summer that he had.
‘I think he found those physical demands pretty strong in the beginning and now you’re seeing him deal with those better. A lot of that is a credit to himself and how he’s approached it - he’s worked with our strength and conditioning coach Adam Burrows, who’s fantastic, but they’ve worked together so it’s Christian who has to take on that responsibility and he has.
‘Physically that’s helped him but it’s also just his talent is coming through. Looking forward, I want to see more of what he’s shown in recent times which is goals and assists because that’s what the best in the world do in that position. I feel he has the capability to do that as he improves and that can be the edge as his game moves on levels.’