Thomas Tuchel has spoken about the importance of N’Golo Kante ahead of the second leg of the Champions League final against Real Madrid on Wednesday night.
With Mateo Kovacic out injured, Kante has excelled in Chelsea’s midfield alongside Jorginho.
The 30-year-old has also helped his club in the race for a top four spot in the Premier League, as well as reaching the FA Cup final and latter stages in Europe. Jokingly, Tuchel says that his introverted France international has to accept that he is going to get a lot of hugs for his string of excellent displays.
“He needs to accept that will cuddle him, I do this a lot,” Tuchel began in his preview for the Champions League. “He is a nice guy, almost a shy person. He is quiet, he likes his own quality time and he is not loud.
“I see him smile a lot, I see him interact with everybody but on his own terms, very shy and polite but I am so happy that players like him exist. It is a pleasure to watch.
“What he is doing with his mentality, a real helper always gives everything to help anybody on the pitch as such a nice, humble and quiet guy. He is the guy you need to win trophies. That is why I am so, so happy that he is here.
“I have dreamed about this player, fighting for this player at any club I was coaching at and now he is my player. He has won many trophies except for the Champions League. I am sure he will be doing everything to get this trophy.
“For me, he is an example, an unbelievable input for any team in the world. He is key; he will be key tomorrow. ”
Madrid announced that Raphael Varane and Dani Carvajal didn’t make the trip to London, however their squad includesMarcelo, Sergio Ramos, Ferland Mendy and Federico Valverde, who were all doubtful ahead of the upcoming match.
Former Chelsea players Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois return to west London for the first time since leaving the club to play for Los Blancos, while Tuchel confirmed his side’s injury situation.
“Mateo [Kovacic] will not be in the squad,” he said. “I think that Toni [Rudiger] will play with a mask because he trained yesterday in a mask. Everybody else is in training today, so hopefully, we will have no new injuries today and that means everybody is available except for Kovacic.”
Tuchel went on to weigh up both sides ahead of kick-off: “I’m not sure if they will play again in a 5-3-2 or they will switch to their more familiar 4-3-3. That maybe depends on the last tests for Mendy and Ramos today.
“The main lesson is that we can trust ourselves and the main lesson is that we have every right to be in the semi-final, and we should be self-confident and have no fear to face this challenge. Does Ramos play or not?
“This is a tough question because I simply don’t know it. Does it change a lot for Real Madrid? Yes, he’s their captain. So it changes a lot but we cannot lose our heads about this decision. I think that he will start, we will prepare for that, and we have to make sure that he cannot do it alone.”