N’Golo Kante says it is always a special occasion when he comes up against Leicester City, given the incredible year he enjoyed there, but the only thing on his mind when he does so tonight will be ending the season well with Chelsea.
It was Leicester who first brought the Frenchman to England, in 2015, when he played a key role in the club’s fairy-tale Premier League title triumph during his debut season in the country, before moving to Stamford Bridge at the end of the campaign.
Ahead of us hosting the Foxes in west London tonight for our penultimate fixture of this season, Kante confirmed these games against his former club always hold a special significance to him, but his focus will be firmly on his current team and making sure we secure the third spot in the table we have occupied since December.
‘Of course when we play against Leicester it is always special,’ he said. ‘Leicester were my first club in England, gave me my first title in England. We achieved some great things and it’s very special to play against them as a club. But many of the players have changed and of course now I’m a Chelsea player.
‘It’s been years that I’ve been playing against them and finishing in the top three with Chelsea is all that I will be focusing on. It’s important because we’ve been in this position for so much of the season and it’s important to keep it to the end and not let it go. We have to finish the season in the best way we can.’
A win over Leicester tonight would ensure Tottenham Hotspur can no longer catch us and guarantee a third-place finish in the Premier League, although a draw should be enough as Spurs would still require a minimum 19-goal swing in goal difference in the last game of the season to finish above us.
Kante is hoping we can achieve a third-place finish to add to the positives he can look back on from the 2021/22 season. While there have been low points, he prefers to focus on the highs, like winning the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup, although he denies claims he is the happiest man in football.
‘I’m not the happiest footballer, but I’m just a happy man – happy to be at Chelsea, happy to play football, happy to share the changing room with these players. So I’m happy but not the happiest.
‘Happiness is a state of mind where you enjoy the things that are happening, where you are, what you are. This is happiness.
‘We have had ups and downs but we have had moments of happiness, we were able to celebrate some titles and share those moments with the fans and everyone who’s working at the club. On the other side there have been some moments where we wish that we could have done it better, but that’s football, we did our best and we see what happens.’
That determination to stay positive extends to the events of the past week, where he obviously feels the pain of Saturday’s FA Cup final penalty shoot-out defeat to Liverpool, but prefers to focus on how well we did to be in a second domestic final of the season and the good standing that puts us in to add domestic success to our international trophies moving forward.
‘We are all disappointed,’ said the midfielder. ‘We had the chance to win a trophy at the end of the season in a domestic final. Every one of us was wishing for a better result but sometimes it is like this.
‘We have to be proud to have reached the final, because we won many matches to get there, and we hope this final will help us in the future to achieve better things.’