Cape Town - Chelsea face being without key midfielder N’Golo Kante for up to seven games after suffering an injury on international duty.
Kante sustained a hamstring problem while playing for France and has been ruled out of Chelsea’s clash against basement boys Crystal Palace this weekend.
However, that is expected to be just the start of a month-long absence for the 26-year-old, who is set to miss two Champions League ties against Roma, as well as Premier League action.
With Danny Drinkwater still on the treatment table, it leaves Chelsea boss Antonio Conte with Cesc Fabregas and Tiemoue Bakayoko as his only available central midfield options
Conte said: “For Kante, we are going to do a scan next week to check his situation, if he's improving but for sure it's a hamstring problem and this is a big loss for us because you know very well the importance of Kante in our team.
“We don't have another player with the same characteristics. We are not lucky in this period because in midfield, now we have only Bakayoko and Fabregas available and we have to approach seven games in one month.
“For this reason, in this period we have to find different solutions and to adapt some defenders in midfield or give the opportunity to young players to play from the start.
“For sure it will be very difficult to play with Fabregas and Bakayoko for seven games in a row so we have to hope we have no injuries in these games.”