Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has insisted that he will not rush N'Golo Kante's return to the starting lineup, after the Frenchman made his long-awaited return as a substitute in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Borussia Monchengladbach.
Kante was sidelined with a hamstring injury towards the end of last season, but returned to play in the Europa League final victory. However, he has not been seen since and has largely remained at the club's training complex to work on recovery, rather than travel for pre-season.
Speaking to Chelsea's official website, Lampard revealed his delight at seeing Kante return, although he does not know whether he will be able to feature in the Blues' opening fixture against Manchester United.
He said: "[The plan] was to give him the feeling of some match time because he has not been able to have that yet. It was an awkward injury and I want him to feel it [time on the pitch] and us to see it and you can’t replicate it quite unless you do it. It was a good opportunity for him to do that and we will work hard on getting him fit.
"Who knows if he can be ready for next week or not, we will work hard for that but we just have to be careful as he played so many games over the last three seasons, you don’t want to rush him back if it is going to be a negative but we will do our best to get him back."
Lampard was also eager to praise the impact of Mason Mount, who has enjoyed an impressive pre-season with the Blues.
"He [Mount] has done a lot coming back here. I worked with him last year and I am really happy with how he is training, with how he is playing, with how he has improved, his status within the group," Lampard added.
"The players recognise quality instantly but they also recognise work rate and character and Mason has all of those and shown that.
"He has given me a problem because Ross Barkley has also had a good pre-season and Ruben Loftus-Cheek will be back later on. It is good because they are adaptable, it does not have to be one for one, they can play a variety of positions among themselves and I could not ask for more than Mason has done.
"I more or less know my team selection but it is a long week to come and players have to train every day to get themselves in the team, so the door isn’t shut on that."