Football: Soccer-Tuchel upbeat on Kante and Mendy for Champions League final


LONDON (Reuters) – Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel offered some encouraging news on injuries to midfielder N’Golo Kante and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy as the build-up to the Champions League final began on Monday.

Kante missed Chelsea’s final game of the season against Aston Villa on Sunday after being taken off in the previous game against Leicester City with a hamstring niggle.

Mendy, who has established as Chelsea’s first-choice keeper, collided with a post and hurt his ribs against Villa and failed to come out for the second half.

Both will be key cogs in Tuchel’s plan if underdogs Chelsea are to beat Manchester City in Porto on Saturday.

“With N’Golo I think I’ll just put him on the training pitch on Wednesday, don’t ask any more if there’s any problems,” Tuchel joked at his news conference on Monday.

“Maybe I will not speak to the doctors and physios any more so I hear no more doubts and no more complaints! But it looks good and I hope it stays like that.”

On Mendy, the German added: “He has made huge improvement in the management of pain. Further updates on Wednesday but we hope to have him back in training.

“He will play if he is fit. We will try on Wednesday, if not then we will try on Thursday, if not then we will try on Friday. If he cannot make it then we have a strong guy on the bench with Kepa. The images don’t show that the injury is too serious.”

Tuchel is taking charge of his a team in a Champions League final for the second successive season having lost with Paris St Germain last season. While that bitter experience will be useful, Tuchel played down its significance.

“Experience is a crucial thing in coaching and a very important thing and the more experience I have, the better I can be so I arrive smarter and more experienced,” he said.

“But the situation is quite different. If I was a player I’m not sure if I would love to hear the story from my coach who was there last year with a different team.

“Now we arrive for the first time together.”

Tuchel has masterminded two wins for Chelsea over City this season — in the FA Cup and in the Premier League.

“We have closed the gap to Man City for two games in a very short period of time,” Tuchel said. It’s not so long ago.

“We know that in a final anything can happen. Luck is a huge part. The mental approach. Who can handle the pressure and the little details?

“But I think (the wins over City) helped us a lot to bond, to grow, and arrive with a lot of self-confidence. Man City is the benchmark, they are the champions here. We are the guys who want to hunt them, to challenge them and this is what we’re going to do.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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