Huge boost for Leeds United as Chelsea will be missing star player for Elland Road visit
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Whites fans were delighted by the 2022/2023 fixture list when it was first released by the Premier League in June, not least because it seemed Leeds had been handed an easy start to the season.
The one to watch, though, among United’s first six opponents, was Chelsea who, on paper, posed the greatest threat to the beginning of a campaign in which Jesse Marsch hoped to put last season’s relegation woes behind Leeds.
With a clean slate, Marsch has impressed the Elland Road faithful in the first two games of the new term – but the visit of the Blues threatens to stem the momentum the American is trying to build.
The West London side finished third in the league in May and have significant strengthened over the summer with the additions of Raheem Sterling, who has over 100 top-flight goals to his name, and rising Premier League star Marc Cucurella.
Against a lacklustre Everton side, Chelsea had no need to pull out a flourishing display on the opening day as the Toffees failed to muster any fightback after Jorginho’s first-half penalty gave his side the advantage.
At Stamford Bridge last weekend, the hosts twice threw away a lead to allow an under-performing Tottenham Hotspur side to snatch a point – to Thomas Tuchel’s outrage.
But the surrendering of the result that caused tempers to flare could be the least of Tuchel’s worries as the afternoon brought a fresh injury to one of his most vital players.
Midfield magician Kanté has been a mainstay of the Chelsea team since he signed from Leicester City in 2016, accruing no less than 262 appearances for the Stamford Bridge outfit.
But in recent seasons, the 31-year-old has begun to be troubled by injury more frequently – and pulled up with a hamstring injury in the dying minutes of the Spurs draw on Sunday.
“It seems another muscle injury, the hamstring,” Tuchel revealed after the game.
"He said he feels it pretty strong. So no good news.”
The Frenchman is expected to be out of action for up to a month, meaning he won’t play against Leeds when Chelsea visit Elland Road on Sunday.
With Chelsea already missing Mateo Kovačić to a knee injury, the loss of Kanté comes as a huge blow to Tuchel who will need to conjure a creative solution to his midfield crisis.
The news could put an end to talk of a Stamford Bridge exit for former Crystal Palace loanee Conor Gallagher, who is likely to step into the midfield amid the injury troubles.
Eighteen-year-old Carney Chukwuemeka, who Chelsea bought from Aston Villa in a £20m deal this summer, could be handed a moment in the spotlight, while the Blues are reportedly close to securing young Inter Milan midfielder Cesare Casadei who could equally provide cover if the deal is sealed soon.