Tuchel positive over Kante and Mendy fitness ahead of Champions League final

By Sports Desk May 24, 2021

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is positive over the fitness of N'Golo Kante and Edouard Mendy ahead of the Champions League final.

Midfielder Kante sat out the 2-1 loss to Aston Villa on Sunday as the Blues scraped a top-four finish in the Premier League on the final day thanks to Tottenham's win over Leicester City.

Goalkeeper Mendy was substituted at Villa Park with a rib injury, making him a doubt for the showdown with Manchester City in Porto on Saturday.

However, Tuchel does not appear overly concerned by either injury and is prepared to give them time to recover before he makes a decision on their involvement.

"The situation has not changed with N'Golo in the sense we are still waiting, but it is looking good that he will return to training on Wednesday," he said on Monday.

"I think about changing my tactics now and stop asking about N'Golo. I'll just put him on the pitch in Wednesday training and don't ask anymore. If there are any problems we will just put him in training and put him on the pitch when the game starts on Saturday.

"Maybe I won't talk to the doctors and physios so I don't hear doubts or complaints or nothing. Maybe I have to think about the tactics. It looks good and I hope it stays like this.

"[Mendy] made a huge improvement with the management of pain from when the injury happened, which is good but of course we will need a further update on Wednesday. We hope to have him back.

"Edou will play if he's fit. And if he's not fit on Wednesday, we will try Thursday, and if not then we will try Friday. We will be reasonable and take responsibility for the decision. At the same time, we have trust if he can't make it. We have a strong guy with Kepa [Arrizabalaga] on the bench who would take his place.

"So the race is on. We are happy the images didn't show the injury was too serious. So we are positive. But every hour and every day counts. Hopefully, the team around Edou and he himself can do enough that he is on the pitch. It would be a good boost for us."

Tuchel's primary focus is to allow his squad the chance to rest and recover after a hectic schedule in which Chelsea battled for a top-four league finish and reached the FA Cup final as well as the showpiece clash with City.

"It's mental relaxation now because it was a tight schedule for us being in the race for top four from the first moment we arrived, and making it to the FA Cup and Champions League final meant a huge task to fulfill," he said. "That's why it was a constant up and down, constant pressure, focusing on different competitions, that was not easy.

"So we are absolutely happy and it's an outstanding achievement we made it. Now is the moment for a mental break for the players. I will use it personally to think about how we will approach the game on Saturday. What are the headlines? The key points? How do we approach it mentally, emotionally, tactically?

"This is my day tomorrow to be prepared on Wednesday when the players come back. The players need a bit of distraction and mental rest to breathe. And then I want them to be here on Wednesday full of joy because this is maybe their most exciting week in their life as professional players."

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    Captain Benzema teed up Vinicius Junior to slot in an 86th-minute leveller, with the help of a deflection, before roles were reversed for the winner two minutes later. 

    A teasing cross from Vinicius was perfect for Benzema to attack, and although the ball went in off his shoulder rather than his forehead, as was the intention, they all count. 

    Benzema has now scored in his last six games against Valencia, and Sunday's late show was sweet revenge for the 4-1 thumping that Madrid took at Mestalla last November. 

    Coach Carlo Ancelotti described his team's spirit as "indomitable" and Benzema saw it similarly. 

    The 33-year-old said: "I think it was a difficult game for us against a great team who are always difficult to beat here. 

    "I think we deserved the three points that are important to us. Each game is a final, today was another final and we won. 

    "All the players on the pitch and the people who came on at the end of the game to help us, it is a victory for the squad. If I can continue like this, scoring, the most important thing is that they are important for the club." 

    Madrid are unbeaten in their last 18 away trips (W12 D6) in LaLiga, which equals their best such run in the competition's history, having previously reached 18 games unbeaten in 1997 (W11 D7) and 2016 (W13 D5). 

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    Rudiger was late getting into the stadium after experiencing some technical difficulties with the coronavirus pass on his phone, and Tuchel felt that summed up Chelsea's first-half performance.

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