(Reuters) - Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante remains sidelined with an ankle injury but the club has received a boost with the return of long-term absentee Antonio Rudiger ahead of Saturday’s trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers, manager Frank Lampard said on Friday.
Kante missed Chelsea’s last two Premier League matches after picking up an injury in training and the 28-year-old was also left out of the French squad during the international break.
“This game is too soon for him,” Lampard told reporters. “He’s hopefully close (to returning).
“I don’t want to jump the gun because we’re waiting for improvement to fill that final step to get him to where we want him to be on the pitch again. But hopefully that will be in a week or so.”
Rudiger required knee surgery last season when his campaign ended prematurely in April but the defender has proved his fitness after playing the full 90 minutes twice for the Under-23 side last month.
“Rudiger is fit,” Lampard added. “He’ll have an important role. We have missed him as we have with a few more front line players.
“It’s important in a team, I don’t want a young team for the sake of it. He can be influential, he’s ready to take on those roles.”
Lampard also confirmed teenage sensation Callum Hudson-Odoi, who ruptured his Achilles’ tendon in April, would return to action with the Under-23 side as he edges closer to first team action.
“Callum has been training for a while but there’s some issues we need to make sure we’re okay with, the actual injury itself,” Lampard said. “He’ll need to get match fit so these games are really beneficial for him.”
Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount, who made his Premier League breakthrough this season, also made his England debut against Bulgaria and Lampard said he was “really proud” of the 20-year-old, challenging him to kick on.
“It’s only (due to) the work he’s been putting in since a young boy,” Lampard said.
“Now the hard work begins, this is where the scrutiny ramps up. He did well in both games. He needs to go up the gears and continue that progression because I think there’s a lot more to come.”
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise