Former Manchester City and England goalkeeper David James too feels Kante’s fitness will be one of the most important factors in this clash of EPL giants.
“It’s to be seen whether it was actually a hamstring tear that he sustained or whether he came off apprehending that it could be a tear,” James told TOI on Friday.
“If the latter is true, it’s difficult for him to be fit for the final. He has been phenomenal through the season and without him Chelsea have struggled to control games. For me, Kante, along with goalkeeper Edouard Mendy (who is also returning from a rib injury) are the most important players for Chelsea,” James added.
The fact that the Euros are round the corner too may play a part in Kante’s involvement in the Man City clash. An aggravated injury may well rule him out of the quadrennial showpiece starting on June 14.
“Yes, there is a possibility of it being on the back of his mind. I am just wondering whether Thomas Tuchel has kept him in the squad just to make a suggestion that he is available and make Pep Guardiola change his plans. A few mind games are going to go on,” James said.
The former keeper, who has 93 caps for Man City between 2004-06, believes his former club will be the favourites in the final, even though they lost the last two games to Chelsea.
“I don’t think those two defeats will have any impact on the final. In the FA Cup semis, City rested quite a few players. And before the EPL game (that Chelsea won 2-1), Man City had all but wrapped up the title.
“While Man City players will be well rested too, Chelsea had to fight till the last day of the league to ensure CL qualification. Add to that the kind of football that City have played through the season and they should be the favourites,” James added.
James also feels that this will be the most important game for City coach Pep Guardiola’s coaching career.
“He himself said that if he doesn’t win Champions League with City, he will consider himself a failure.
“Yes, he has won two Champions Leagues with Barcelona (2009 and ‘11), but then there was Leo Messi in his team. This is the title that he hasn’t won since then (either in Bayern Munich or Manchester City) and there’s no doubt this is the biggest game of his career,” James said.