N'Golo Kante’s return gives Frank Lampard a welcome headache
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has a selection headache ahead of the visit of Ajax Amsterdam in the Champions League tomorrow morning (Singapore time), but it is one he welcomes.
N'Golo Kante has been declared fit and is in the squad to face the Dutch champions, having been out for a month.
The France international's return is a boost for Lampard, but the Englishman now has to decide how to fit Kante in midfield, where both Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho have been earning plenty of praise for their displays in recent games.
"Kante is in the squad, he is fit and we have been able to get some work into him," Lampard said at the pre-match conference yesterday.
"N'Golo is huge for us. He is one of the best midfielders in the world and has been for a few seasons, so I won't complain about the nice problem I have with him fit. I want competition, we are playing every three or four days and I'm going to need everyone."
Kovacic has attributed his raised levels of performance to the freedom he has now, but Lampard said it was more down to the system and the need for his side to become more fluid and less predictable.
"You can call it freedom, but it is just how I want us to play," the 41-year-old said.
"Particularly in some games we have had to break teams down and we need to be able to move, we can't be too predictable and rigid in our positions. There is freedom to interchange... So I am happy for them to be fluid.
PULISIC MAKES HIS CASE
"We are trying to be fluid in the movement of the ball and that does mean moving it through central areas a lot and we need to be able to receive the ball and move it in tight areas.
"Against Ajax, with the pace of the game, if you are not ready to accept the ball then it will find you out very quickly."
Another player making a real case for starting against Ajax is Christian Pulisic, after the United States captain scored his fourth goal in two English Premier League games to secure a 2-1 win at Watford on Saturday, a week after becoming the youngest Chelsea player to score a hat-trick in a 4-2 victory at Burnley.
The 21-year-old had to be patient in the early months of his Blues career, as Lampard was wary that Pulisic's presence at the Gold Cup for his country in the summer meant he had just one week off before starting pre-season, and managed his minutes accordingly.
Now, Lampard has another attacking weapon as his first season in charge continues to take shape.