Eyebrows were raised when Chelsea manager Antonio Conte made the decision to exclude midfielder N’Golo Kante from his team’s starting side on Sunday for the Blues’ massive game at Manchester City.
The hard-working Kante has been a mainstay in Conte’s side for the last two years, so why would he suddenly be benched against the league’s most high-octane attacking side?
Kante’s absence was attributed to illness, but we now know that the player endured a health scare during a training session late last week. Kante suddenly fainted in the team’s dressing room after a training session on Friday.
The team’s health staff was quick to respond, and the player was sent for additional testing once he regained consciousness. The club initially feared that Kante had some sort of heart defect, but further testing did not uncover any underlying health problem.
While Kante checked out with a clean bill of health, Conte decided that rushing the player back onto the pitch so soon after the scare would be too risky. As a result, the Frenchman was left on the bench for the duration of the Blues’ 1-0 defeat on Sunday at the Etihad.
The loss was just the latest setback in what has been a tumultuous stretch for Conte’s side. The Blues have secured just 53 points through the season’s first 29 matches, and they have slipped to fifth in the league.
Chelsea are five points back of fourth-place Tottenham with time running short. You don’t have to do much math to know that the Blues’ odds of appearing in next season’s Champions League are slimming with each passing week. Chelsea have now lost four of their last five matches in the Premier League.
Doctors were unable to find any definitive reason for Kante’s sudden loss of consciousness, but some believe that the player may have suffered adverse effects of returning to a heated training room after having been out in the ice-cold temperatures during the team’s outdoor training session.
The news of Kante’s fainting certainly comes at a sensitive time following the untimely passing of 31-year-old Fiorentina captain Davide Astori on Sunday morning.
Astori was found unresponsive in his hotel room on Sunday morning after suffering what prosecutors described as “cardiac arrest due to natural causes.” While no foul play is suspected, Italian authorities have still decided to launch an investigation into the death.
So, Chelsea certainly didn’t want to take any additional risks that could have put Kante into question. The club believes the incident was a one-time thing, and that the player will be able to train normally this week ahead of Saturday’s clash against Crystal Palace.
Kante trained in a solo session at Cobham on Monday, and he believes he will be able to return to the starting XI ahead of next week’s huge Champions League match against Barcelona.
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