Chelsea coach Frank Lampard was set to make a late decision on the fitness of N’Golo Kante for Wednesday’s UEFA Super Cup clash with Liverpool in Istanbul, a match he is “optimistic” the London club can win.
The France midfielder has been struggling with a knee injury that saw him fly home early from the club’s pre-season trip to Japan and meant he started on the bench in Sunday’s 4-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester United.
Kante came on in the second half of their Premier League opener but Lampard revealed another knock picked up at Old Trafford has left a question mark over the 28-year-old’s presence at the Vodafone Park, home of Besiktas.
“The selection of N’Golo Kante on the bench was purely because he had an injury in pre-season. He wasn’t ready for the game but I’m very aware of how important he is for us as a player,” Lampard said.
“He also picked up another small injury in the game so we are assessing that with regards to tomorrow (Wednesday).”
Lampard also confirmed that Brazilian winger Willian and German centre-back Antonio Rudiger will start on the bench as they continue to recover fitness following spells on the sidelines.
Meanwhile, young duo Tammy Abraham (21) and Mason Mount (20) will hope to keep their places after starting at the weekend, with Lampard prepared to give youth a chance after a transfer ban prevented Chelsea from signing any new players in the close season.
“I’ll pick the best team to win the game, regardless of age. Mason Mount deserved his chance on absolute merit as opposed to age,” Lampard insisted.
“I will have no fears to play young players, it’s important at a club like Chelsea that we do that, but they need to deserve the chance.”
Lampard is eager to mark just his second competitive match in charge with a trophy, all the more so after losing this match as a Chelsea player in 2012 and 2013.
“It means a lot to the club,” he said. “I know that first hand because I lost two: one in poor circumstances because we lost against Atletico Madrid having been champions of Europe.
“We were far, far off in that game. It was different against (Bayern) Munich, we lost unfortunately but I understand the feeling that when you work hard to get into this game, which is a game between two champions, it’s important as a club like Chelsea that we give everything to try to win it.”
The former Derby County boss added: “I am optimistic because I believe in the players and I believe we are here in the final because we deserve to be here.
“I am very proud to be here managing the team but I am also very understanding of the quality of Liverpool.
“We know it’s going to be a big test, but yes I believe in my players and if we play to our maximum we can win the match.”