LONDON (Reuters) – Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has criticised France’s handling of an injury that has ruled N’Golo Kante out of the Londoners’ Premier League clash at home to Newcastle United on Saturday.
Lampard told reporters on Friday that midfielder Kante, who has had a stop-start season, was unavailable after returning from international duty.
“N’Golo’s not fit for Saturday. He had a small groin issue in the warm-up to the first international game with France and we didn’t get him back until after the second game,” he told reporters.
“After the first game when he pulled out, he then had a fitness test the day before the second game, clear that he couldn’t play and he then sat on the bench on the evening of the game.
“It’s not such a laughing matter…I think that probably could have been handled better,” said Lampard. “It was quite clear he wasn’t fit to play, so from our point of view we’d have wanted him back to work on him.”
Denmark’s Andreas Christensen is another Chelsea casualty of the international break and Lampard said the centre back would be out for “probably the next two weeks” due to a hamstring injury.
There was better news about Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic and Germany international defender Antonio Rudiger, who has been out since September.
“Kovacic had a knock on his thigh but has trained the last couple of days so he’s in contention,” said Lampard.
“Rudiger is training outside with the physios which is a progression for him, he’s had a tough injury with some stop-start to it, which has been unfortunate for everybody but he’s outside.
“A bit of work to be done for him for match fitness but really positive for us that he’s back outside.”
Chelsea are fifth in the standings after eight games, level on points with Leicester City in fourth and just a point behind London rivals Arsenal, who are at Sheffield United on Monday.
Newcastle are 16th and a point above the drop zone.
Lampard expected a tough match against inconsistent visitors who were thrashed 5-0 by Leicester City but beat Manchester United 1-0 at home.
“I saw them at Tottenham earlier in the season put in a similar show of resilience and organisation and counter-attacking football,” he said.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)