Thomas Tuchel has called Chelsea’s prospective third-place finish in the Premier League a “miracle” amid N’Golo Kante’s injury woes.
arcos Alonso’s brilliant volley secured Chelsea a 1-1 draw with Leicester at Stamford Bridge, securing third place in everything but math.
Chelsea have an 18 goal difference advantage over fourth-placed Tottenham and manager Tuchel believes the task of sealing third place is effectively done and dusted.
Kante has missed more than half of the season with a number of different injuries, leaving Tuchel to lament the French world champion’s absence throughout the season.
The 31-year-old has a year left on his Chelsea deal, with Tuchel insisting the Blues must find a way to let him play more regularly to boost his chances of a longer stay in west London.
“I think he’s our key, key, key player; but key players have to be on the pitch,” said Tuchel.
I think he’s our key, key, key player; but key players have to be on the pitchThomas Tuchel on N’Golo Kante
“He only plays 40 percent of the games. So it might be a miracle that we finished third.
“Because he’s our Mo Salah, he’s our (Virgil) Van Dijk, he’s our (Kevin) De Bruyne, he’s just that player.
“He’s our Neymar, he’s our Kylian Mbappe; He’s the guy who makes the difference.
“And if you only have it 40 percent, that’s a huge problem.
“With that percentage, it’s perhaps a wonder how consistently we’re getting results and putting everything in perspective.
“Because I saw Liverpool without Van Dijk last season and they struggled a lot. And you see the difference.
“So N’Golo is our key player and he has to be on the pitch.”
Asked if Chelsea can solve Kante’s physical problems, Tuchel continued: “I hope so. It’s hard to live with because it’s important for him to be there and to have the rhythm.
“I think he played well but he can play so much better.
“He can play so much better but when was his last game he started, that was weeks ago.
“So he starts getting rhythm all the time and once he gets rhythm a little injury comes along and he’s out again.
“Imagine last year he was man of the match in the last five games of the Champions League.
“I mean, they gave him the trophy before the game because it was clear when he played that he was going to be man of the match. It was like this.
“And this guy who becomes man of the match in every Champions League game is only here about 40 per cent of the game.”
The German continued: “This is huge for us. We’re doing everything we can to solve it, and of course he is too.
“I don’t blame him, it worries us and it is a fact that we miss him very much. Because he brings something unique to world football.
“He has the ability to lift everyone up and make the difference. And that is the challenge for him and for us.”
James Maddison gave Leicester an early lead at Chelsea before Alonso fired home from Reece James’s delicate cross.
“We were the better team and deserved to win, but we did what was necessary,” said Tuchel.
“We needed a point, we got a point and didn’t give up a chance.
“But today is still the day we secured third place.”
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers praised goalscorer Maddison for emerging from difficult times to produce a good overall campaign.
“We had to fight really hard, they’re obviously a quality team,” Rodgers said.
“We got off to a great start with a fantastic goal; Our defense was good, with structure and focus. And we deserve a point.
“James really is a top player and he matures with every game he plays.
“I thought he was our standout player with the ball, his aggression, his ability to take the ball in space.
“This is a young man who showed great courage and came to me saying his confidence had taken a small hit.
“We just rebuilt him, fundamentally helped him to work hard on his game.
“And from that moment on he worked his way back into the game, was consistent and defensively he was very good.
“He’s really, really improved and has been our top player this season.”
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/thomas-tuchel-highlights-chelsea-miracle-after-ngolo-kantes-injury-issues-41668771.html Thomas Tuchel highlights Chelsea’s ‘miracle’ after N’Golo Kante’s injury woes