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World Cup: N'Golo Kante's injury forces Didier Deschamps to tinker with his plans

The World Cup is now just weeks away and the defending champions are being forced to plan without tireless midfielder N'Golo Kante. 

(This article was originally published on 19.10.2022)

As the reigning champions, France remain the 4/1 favourites to retain their crown, but manager Didier Deschamps has been handed a blow with less than a month to go before he names his squad.

Chelsea midfielder Kante has been ruled out of the tournament after having an operation on a hamstring injury. The 31-year-old suffered the problem during Chelsea's 2-2 draw against Tottenham in August, and he had been working on his fitness ever since.

However, ahead of the club's 2-0 win over Aston Villa last weekend, coach Graham Potter revealed he had suffered a setback, and the club and Kante agreed the best solution was to go under the knife.

Kante will now be sidelined for four months, but Deschamps cannot rest on his laurels, and the work starts now for a replacement.

Who will replace Kante in France's midfield?

Deschamps and his coaching staff already have their work cut out this winter, with talisman Paul Pogba racing to prove his fitness.

The Juventus midfielder has also had surgery recently, and the former Manchester United playmaker faces a race against time to prove he can feature in Qatar.

Pogba would usually feature in the centre of midfield, with Deschamps often selecting a 4-3-3 formation. However, he would typically slot in alongside Kante, who would be deployed as the holding midfielder.

Ex-Arsenal and now Marseille man Matteo Guendouzi is ready to fill the void, and he has played a big role for the Ligue 1 club this season.

The 23-year-old has already featured in ten games for Marseille, and his physical approach would allow others alongside him to flourish.

Real Madrid duo Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni are likely to fight it out for one of the spots in midfield, while Deschamps will no doubt want more experience in the middle of the park.

Adrien Rabiot certainly provides that, and even without Kante, France have plenty of options in the central areas. 

There is no doubt Kante would add some quality to the France midfield, but Les Bleus should have enough to top Group D at 2/5, ahead of Denmark, Australia and Tunisia.

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Can Chelsea still compete without Kante?

Chelsea's title plans are back on track under Graham Potter, but the Blues need those in front of them to slip up if they are to get their hands on the Premier League title.

They are fourth in the table, eight points behind Arsenal, but they are in good form of late and are facing a London derby tussle with Brentford on Wednesday evening. 

Kante's injury at the start of the season means he has only worn the club colours on two occasions, but Chelsea have managed to adapt and battle on without him.

Potter's men have won five games on the spin under the former Brighton coach, and they are unbeaten since he replaced Thomas Tuchel in September.

While Potter would like to work alongside the former Premier League winner, he may need to start thinking of a future without him. Kante is out of contract next summer, and Chelsea may be forced to cut their losses after an injury-ravaged few years.

Mateo Kovacic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek played as deep-lying playmakers against Aston Villa last weekend, while Jorginho has also featured at the heart of Chelsea's midfield. Denis Zakaria and Conor Gallagher can also play in the engine room, and Chelsea look well covered in midfield until Kante returns in February.

By then, Chelsea will hope to be in the mix for the title, and they are 25/1 at present to win their sixth Premier League crown.

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