N’Golo Kante hopes to return to action for by the end of next month, by which time he will have spent six months on the sidelines.
The French midfielder has been plagued by injuries this season, making just two appearances at the very start of the campaign against and Tottenham.
Kante injured his hamstring late on against Spurs and after initially trying to avoid surgery he was forced to go under the knife, missing the in as a result.
He has missed 27 matches for Chelsea in all competitions so far, but is now finally closing in on a return to the pitch barring any more setbacks.
According to French newspaper , Kante is now aiming to return to action by the end of February and is upping his training.
The 31-year-old has been training individually at Cobham since last week but could soon resume ball work before being reintegrated back into the first-team squad.
Manager Graham Potter had previously said that Kante might not return until early March but the experienced midfielder’s recovery appears to be slightly ahead of schedule.
Chelsea have five matches in February finishing with an away trip to Tottenham on the 26th, though that might come a tad too soon for Kante to be involved.
A more likely return date is a home game against Leeds United a week later, followed by the return leg of Chelsea’s Champions League last-16 clash with Borussia Dortmund a few days later.
Speaking back in December, Potter said of Kante: ‘He will be a while, end of Feb, start of March. It was a surgery, so it is a minimum period of four months pretty much.
‘I think my focus is to help him get back fit as soon as possible, everyone knows the quality he has.
‘That is not in question, but it is about helping him get fit and back on the pitch, and looking forward to seeing him back playing football as we haven’t seen him.’
Kante is out of contract in the summer and can now speak to foreign clubs about a pre-contract agreement, though Chelsea are optimistic they can convince him to sign an extension.
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