Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri is 'optimistic' that key midfielder N'Golo Kante will be fit enough to play in next week's Europa League final against Arsenal after recovering from a hamstring injury that ruled him out of the final Premier League games of the season.
Despite the summer arrival of Jorginho bringing about a change in role for Kante, the 2018 World Cup winner has remained an automatic starter for Sarri's Chelsea.
He has started 46 times in all competitions so far this season, including 36 in the Premier League, and would be expected to be named in Sarri's first XI in Baku after playing the full 90 minutes o the quarter second leg and the semifinal first leg.
Kante only missed the tense semifinal second leg because of his hamstring injury, but it appears likely that he will feature in the final after three weeks of recuperation.
"We are trying to recover Kante," Sarri is quoted as saying by the Daily Mail. "He had a part of the training on Tuesday with the group, so we are optimistic. I think he will be able to play the final."
However, Antonio Rudiger, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi will all be missing.
It gives Sarri a potential headache in the center of defense. In Rudiger's absence, Andreas Christensen has been the preferred replacement alongside David Luiz, although Cesar Azpilicueta was used centrally on the final day of the Premier League season.
For Sarri, the Europa League final is a chance to record a strong debut year as Chelsea manager, despite regular and self-fuelling media claims that is 'under pressure'.
Given that he didn't arrive until mid-July and was provided with just two permanent signings with which to build a team, Sarri steered Chelsea to third place in the Premier League, meaning automatic Champions League qualification, a place in the Carabao Cup final, where a penalty shootout was the only difference against Manchester City, and now the Europa League final.