Watford manager Claudio Ranieri is a massive fan of Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante and his past comments signify the importance he has in this current Blues outfit amid the Frenchman’s injury woes.
Kante, 30, suffered a knee injury in the 4-0 win against Juventus in the Champions League last week and he will also be missing for this upcoming reunion match against his former manager, as confirmed by Thomas Tuchel himself in his pre-match press conference ahead of Wednesday night.
“For sure out is Chilly, still Kova and N’Golo,” the German said. “We have some players who are a doubt. Maybe a bit more time with more examinations to re-evaluate the status – it is Reece James, Jorgi and Timo Werner. They all trained today with us, but there will be some last-minute decisions about the three.”
Thankfully for the European Champions, their opponents are in a bigger injury crisis themselves with at least five Hornets players a big doubt for this upcoming match, including the dangerous Ismaila Sarr who starred in the 4-1 win against Man United.
Despite these mounting problems for a side who are heavily tipped to go down come the conclusion of the 2021/22 campaign, Ranieri isn’t prepared to use this as an excuse as he reckons his squad are good enough to cope.
“I am confident [the squad will cope], but of course if I had all my players it would be better,” the Italian said.
“The club has a very good group of players and now, [for] those who have played less, is the right moment to show what they want to do in the Premier League.
“It’s not enough to ‘want’ in the Championship, now they have to show what they can ‘do’ in the Premier League, but I am very confident.
“It’s okay, I don’t like to cry. I want to react, I want my players to be positive, confident and fight together.”
One player who will be a big miss to the contest is Kante and Ranieri himself knows just how important his ex-midfielder is to Tuchel’s midfield engine that faltered in the 1-1 draw against Michael Carrick’s United.
“This player Kante, he was running so hard that I thought he must have a pack full of batteries hidden in his shorts. He never stopped running in training,” the Italian said on his midfielder at the time back in 2016 when both were at Leicester City.
“I had to tell him, ‘Hey, N’Golo, slow down. Slow down. Don’t run after the ball every time, okay?’
“He says to me, ‘Yes, boss. Yes. Okay.’
“Ten seconds later, I look over and he’s running again.
“I tell him, ‘One day, I’m going to see you cross the ball, and then finish the cross with a header yourself.”
It’s common knowledge by now that Kante was part of the class of 2015/16 under Ranieri that achieved a fairy-tale for the Foxes as they went on to win the Premier League due to the excellence of the likes of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and the aforementioned Frenchman.
Funnily enough, straight after achieving the miraculous achievement with the East Midlands outfit over five years ago, Marina Granovskaia and co. splashed out a mere £32million on arguably the best defensive midfielder in the world at the time and even nowadays.
Since his move from the King Power Stadium, Chelsea’s number 7 has turned into a serial winner, playing an important part in a Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, Europa League and UEFA Super Cup success in the five years that he has been applying his trade in west London.
No wonder that the current Watford boss didn’t want to let go of the ex-Caen man when he was sold to a struggling Blues outfit at the time who were looking to rebuild after a disastrous campaign with Jose Mourinho that resulted in turmoil for the whole club.
“I didn’t want to sell Kante,” Ranieri said on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football via The Independent back in 2017.
“I didn’t want to sell Mahrez and Vardy because I believe these players were the heart of the team.”
With both Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Jorginho putting in underwhelming showings against Man United, coupled with Ranieri’s admission on the injured midfielder, it’s clear that having Kante unavailable for this game is a positive for Watford who will need to win the midfield battle on Wednesday night if they are to come out with a positive outcome in this contest.