Belgium’s Marouane Fellaini and France’s N’Golo Kante both limped out of their teams’ games with hamstring injuries. It remains to be seen how long they will be out for Man United and Chelsea, respectively.
Managers of top clubs always keep their fingers crossed during an international break, because an injury to a first-team regular is always around the corner.
This is just what happened during the World Cup qualifiers on Saturday, as Man United midfielder Marouane Fellaini was brought off in the 23rd minute in Belgium’s 4-3 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina. The extent of the injury is still unknown.
The 29 year-old has surprisingly become a big part of Jose Mourinho’s side this season. With Paul Pogba out until November at least, Fellaini has been preferred to Ander Herrera alongside Nemanja Matic in midfield and has delivered with consistency thus far. The former Everton man looked set to leave Old Trafford at one point during the summer, but now things have changed.
United have a huge game at the weekend as they visit Anfield. Neighbours City are looking unstoppable at the moment, and the Red Devils need to keep winning to keep pace with Pep Guardiola’s men, who laid down a marker with a commanding victory at Stamford Bridge last week.
The injury though, could be a huge setback for Fellaini. He fights week-in, week-out for a place in the side and may find by the time he comes back that someone else has occupied that spot on a permanent basis. From United’s point of view, a midfield that looked extremely strong and powerful at the start of the season is starting to crack a bit.
Chelsea’s loss much more significant
Chelsea, on the other hand, are biting their nails over one of the most important cogs in their title-winning campaign last year.
N’Golo Kante limped off with the exact same hamstring injury in France’s 1-0 win over Bulgaria. The midfielder was able to walk off, but like Fellaini, only time will tell how bad the injury and subsequent layoff are. Chelsea travel to Crystal Palace at the weekend, and games in subsequent weeks include a double-header in the Champions League against Roma and a clash against Manchester United at home on November 5.
Antonio Conte will be sweating over the test results, as he’s already a bit short in midfield. Danny Drinkwater is expected to come back from injury any time now, so there is a bit of cover. However, there is no doubt that there is nobody in the squad that can match Kante’s energy and tenacity, vital qualities upon which the 3-4-3 system is based. Tiemoue Bakayoko is still settling into the squad, while Cesc Fabregas is more of an attacking midfielder. Drinkwater will add solidarity to the midfield when he returns, but a big reason for his success at Leicester City was Kante himself, during the title-winning season of 2016.
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