Thomas Tuchel says he has not yet made a final decision on whether N’Golo Kante will start Chelsea’s Champions League quarter-final second-leg tie against Porto but admitted it is “hard to imagine” leaving out the midfielder.
The Frenchman injured his hamstring while on international duty last month but has played twice for the Blues as a substitute since returning to club duties.
Kante excelled in the closing stages in the 2-0 first-leg victory over Porto in Seville last Wednesday and also impressed in the crushing 4-1 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday evening.
Boss Tuchel said: “I was unbelievable happy when he said he could travel with us to Sevilla last week, because I didn’t expect it.
“The plan was for him to arrive for Crystal Palace. He was confident enough to go on the pitch and strong enough to help us the last 15-20 minutes with all his quality and intensity.
“The downside of this wonderful decision and situation was that he lost sleep after the travel issues back from Sevilla.
“He lost more workload in training because he was here sitting on the bench playing only 20 minutes. The next day he suffered from travelling, so he could not train like he normally would.
“We decided to bring him from the bench against Palace and honestly I will take this decision when I see him in training and when we reflect on all the others in central midfield.”
Despite several niggling injuries, Kante has still made a total of 44 appearances for club and country this season and has made a big impression on Tuchel since the German replaced Frank Lampard as head coach.
“It’s hard to imagine a game like this without him,” Tuchel added. “But we need to be absolutely careful about him personally that we don’t take risks with his health and with his injury situation.”