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Lampard has full faith in Kante after questions of Chelsea midfielder’s form, fitness and future

The Blues boss saw the World Cup winner put in another impressive performance against Newcastle, with the Frenchman thriving after shaking off knocks

Frank Lampard claims to have “so much faith” in N’Golo Kante after seeing the Chelsea midfielder face questions of his form, fitness and future.

The France international has two Premier League titles and a World Cup winners’ medal to his name, but has seen a move away from Stamford Bridge mooted.

Speculation was first sparked when Maurizio Sarri took to shifting the 29-year-old out of his favoured holding role.

Lampard has also used Kante in a more advanced position during his reign in west London, but has seen him shine of late in the berth that made him a household name.

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Another eye-catching showing sweeping up in front of the Blues’ back four was put in against Newcastle on Saturday, in a 2-0 win for Chelsea, with confidence restored to all concerned.

Lampard told reporters on the influence Kante can have when performing at the peak of his powers: “I know what you mean by quietly influential but he’s much more than that for us.

“Last year he missed 50 per cent of the games with injuries, he had a tough time for different reasons and we are working very hard on that to get him fit and fresh.

“Now we are managing his training and game time, but his levels of performances are really high.

“I keep saying every time I get asked about N’Golo that I have so much faith in him and the top midfield player that he is in world football.

“Not just breaking up and winning balls back, as we know that is a huge quality of his, but his passing and supporting in midfield and playing in that deeper role now has been a very comfortable transition for him. Really, really happy with him.”

Lampard added when asked if he considers Kante to be over the injury issues that have been holding him back: “I don’t want to tempt fate as at the minute he is going well. It’s a constant one for us where we are managing it.

“When I came in at the start of last season he had been injured from the Europa League final and that just rolled on through the year so we just chased it down from there. That was unfortunate and so unfortunate for us to lose him for 50 per cent of the games because of the level of player he is.

“We have had a better period of him to get him in a place where we are really happy with.

“We’re aware and we keep check on his training and numbers and how much distance he travels because every time you train and allow him off the leash in training he makes ridiculous output because of the way he plays.

“We are very careful with that and at the

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Christian Pulisic’s fitness ‘day to day,’ says USMNT coach as Chelsea star battles hamstring injury

Christian Pulisic’s fitness is “day to day,” according to U.S. Men’s National Team coach Gregg Berhalter.

The winger has only made five appearances for Chelsea this season after suffering a fresh injury setback shortly after his return from a long-term layoff.

Pulisic pulled up with a hamstring issue during the warmup before Chelsea’s 3-0 win away to Burnley at the end of October. He had previously been out for around two months after tearing his hamstring in the FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal, in which Pulisic scored the opening goal.

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The current international break sees the USMNT play its first fixtures since February, with friendly games against Wales and Panama.

Pulisic joined up with Berhalter’s squad for the games despite his lack of fitness, and the coach has praised his commitment to the cause.

“Christian is in camp and is listed as day to day,” Berhalter told Fox Sports. “It really says a lot about Christian that he wasn’t playing for Chelsea but he wanted to come into this camp and be around the team and his status is day to day.”

Former Chelsea left back Ashley Cole said he expects Pulisic to give manager Frank Lampard “a good dilemma” once he is back to full fitness.

Pulisic starred at the end of last season and, with Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner finding their feet in the Premier League, things are looking up at Stamford Bridge.

Meanwhile, Berhalter was also pleased to welcome Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie back to the squad, though he won’t have Josh Sargent at his disposal for the upcoming games.

Sargent was not permitted to leave for international duty by his club Werder Bremen, citing Germany’s current coronavirus restrictions. That had led to some concern that McKennie, who recovered from Covid-19 after testing positive in October, might also struggle to link up with his international teammates.

“With Weston, we were able to get him out of Italy and the situation is changing by the hour,” Berhalter said. “Josh Sargent wasn’t able to join the team but Weston is able to come.”

The USMNT will be looking to hit form before its 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign begins in the new year.

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‘Krasnodar have to be aggressive against Chelsea’

Krasnodar “have to be aggressive” against Chelsea, according to their fitness coach John Phillips, who says the Russian outfit must not be “intimidated” by the Blues.

Chelsea are due to take in a trip to the Krasnodar Stadium on Wednesday night as they seek their first win in this season’s Champions League group stage.

Frank Lampard’s men were held to a 0-0 draw in their Group E opener against Sevilla, and were involved in another stalemate against Manchester United on Saturday which has increased pressure on the Blues boss heading into their latest European outing.

Krasnodar earned a creditable 1-1 draw in the battle of the Champions League debutants at Roazhon Park last week, proving they will be no pushovers on the continental stage by holding their own against Ligue 1 high-flyers Rennes.

Phillips, who has previously worked at Southampton and Queens Park Rangers, thinks Murad Musayev’s men are capable of picking up another positive result when they play host to Chelsea, but only if they stop the Premier League giants from playing their usual game by staying mentally sharp over the course of the 90 minutes.

“Chelsea are the same as most English clubs, they’re going to be aggressive, the speed of the game will be high. They’re doing okay in the league, but they will want to come here and they will want to really try and dominate so it’s going to be tough,” Phillips told the club’s official website.

“Obviously with the injuries we’ve got and things like that, but for me it’s just we have to fight, we have to work hard, and try not to be intimidated by them in any way, so it’s a lot to do with the mentality, as well as the physicality.

“[We have to be aware] of their technical ability, also the speed and power. They have a lot of players who can individually do something out of nothing. I think the key is if we work hard, if we’re aggressive, we need to concentrate for 95-96 minutes.

“We can’t switch off because you’ll get punished by these sort of teams. So it’s almost as much mental as it’s physical for this game. Don’t give them respect and allow them to play, we have to be aggressive and take the game to them.”

Asked if he expects an open game against the Blues in midweek, Phillips responded: “I think it’ll depend on how they want to come out and play. Their style of play, they change it quite a lot.

“They changed formation from the Southampton game against Manchester United, so it will depend on how they see the game.

“If they look at it and think they can come and run over us then I think it’ll be quite open, which I think probably helps us because it means that there’ll be opportunities to counterattack.”

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Chelsea star Ziyech provides fitness update & urges bench-warming Van de Beek to be patient at Man Utd

Hakim Ziyech has spoken of where he sees himself fitting into Chelsea’s attacking plans as he continues to work towards full fitness, while also urging former Ajax team-mate Donny van de Beek to remain calm at Manchester United despite a lack of playing time.

Having established himself as one of Europe’s top attackers during his time in the Netherlands, Ziyech saw the Blues swoop to secure his services in a £33 million ($43m) deal following a transfer ban.

The Morocco international was subsequently joined by other high-profile signings such as Kai Havertz and Timo Werner at Stamford Bridge, although the latter pair have seen far more game time due to Ziyech having been contending with injuries.

Asked to comment on when he will be back to full fitness, the 27-year-old told the press: “For me it can’t come soon enough, but if you think realistically I’ve been out for a while, the season stopped early for me last year, so I didn’t play for a while as well.

“The injury came at an unlucky time, so for me it’s now important just to get rhythm back and build up everything again. I know it will take some time, but for me it couldn’t be soon enough.

“It is what it is right now, it’s most important for me to build and get to 100 per cent fitness, and that’s what we’re working to do.”

Asked what position he is likely to take up, the versatile attacker added: “Two different options, maybe three, depending on where the coach needs me. For me it doesn’t matter where I am playing, I just love to play the game, and it doesn’t matter where.”

Another former Ajax man has also found playing time hard to come by in the Premier League, with Manchester United’s summer signing Van de Beek having spent most of his time warming the bench at Old Trafford despite a big-money move.

Ziyech is unconcerned, however, and feels it will take time for the Netherlands international to fully adjust to his new surroundings before showing fans what he is truly capable of.

“We spoke in the beginning when he moved to Man United, but we didn’t speak about his situation,” Ziyech said. “I think he will need time as well, he’s come from a different country, a different style of play.

“And I know for sure it will take some time for him as well to get used to everything and then I know for sure he will bring quality to the squad over there.

“For him the most important thing now is to stay calm.”

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Pulisic offers positive fitness update as USMNT star seeks to recapture top form at Chelsea

Christian Pulisic has offered a positive update on his fitness at Chelsea, with the United States international claiming to “feel great” as he seeks to rediscover the form that made him an important part of the Blues’ plans last season.

The 22-year-old took a while to find his feet in 2019-20, with the former Borussia Dortmund star needing to adjust his game to meet the demands of life in English football.

Once fully up to speed, only untimely injury issues would hold Pulisic back.

His creativity and keen eye for goal earned him a regular role on the left of Chelsea’s attack, with obvious comparisons drawn with former Blues hero Eden Hazard.

Pulisic is edging his way back towards that level in the current campaign, with a starting berth secured in successive outings against Southampton and Sevilla.

Chelsea have been held in both of those fixtures, as they seek a spark in Premier League and Champions League competition, but their USMNT star feels he is ready to burst into life.

“Fitness-wise I feel great,” Pulisic, who saw a hamstring problem force him out of the 2020 FA Cup final and delay his return to competitive action this term, told Chelsea TV.

“I’m getting back to where I was, I feel strong, I feel like I can play 90 minutes, and I’m happy.”

Pulisic will benefit from the game time he has seen of late, with a testing continental clash with Sevilla giving Lampard and his side plenty of food for thought.

“It was definitely a tough game,” Pulisic added.

“It was one of those where there were not a lot of chances in the game, a really hard-fought match, we did a lot of good defending, and I think we can walk away proud with a point.

“They’re a strong team. They put us to the test, they moved the ball really well and we definitely defended a lot.

“It’s everyone’s job to be behind the ball at times.

“We have to help out defensively. Going away from the game with a clean sheet will give us some confidence. It’s not bad for the guys.

“We have got to find the balance [between defence and attack]. We want to create more chances; I want to help with that. We are going to continue to work to improve as a team.”

Chelsea will face another stern test of their credentials on Saturday when they take in a trip to Manchester United.

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