Frank Leboeuf said Chelsea missed N’Golo Kante’s company more than any of their other wounded soldiers.
Speaking on ESPN, Leboeuf highlighted Kante as the key piece to the Blues puzzle.
The £30 million midfielder (BBC Sport) is currently isolating after testing positive for covid.
He did not travel to Turin for the Champions League tie with Juventus mid-week and won’t face Southampton tomorrow either.
Didier Deschamps decided against including the 30-year-old in France’s World Cup qualifying squad.
Kante only recently returned from an injury that kept him out of the previous Le Blues international camp.
Despite his small stature, the Parisian’s presence – or lack of it in this case – is always felt.
Blues want their Kante back
When asked which patient on the treatment table Chelsea needed most, Leboeuf picked his fellow countryman.
“I will say especially Kante,” said the former Blues defender.
“We saw the difference he made when he came on at Tottenham and when he came back just before the Champions League last season.
“He is the guy who makes the difference.
“So of course, it counts when you don’t have Kante in the middle of the park and I think Chelsea are different.”
As noted by Leboeuf, Kante’s first fixture after recovering from his damages was the London derby destruction of Spurs.
His introduction at half-time changed the tie completely in Chelsea’s favour.
Unfortunately, Thomas Tuchel won’t have that luxury tomorrow when his side host Southampton.
Mason Mount and Reece James are also doubts for the league game after they too sat out the European loss to Juve.
Christian Pulisic is a guaranteed absentee, as he continues to recover from an ankle problem.
“Mount had a fantastic season last season,” continued Leboeuf.
“He has to get back to his best and get out of his problems.
“With all those names, Chelsea would be better.
“But supposedly they bought other players who should do the differences. So, there are no excuses.
“Some other team have injuries, problems with players.
“Nobody should complain because those teams normally have two teams inside the squad.”
With the array of talent at Tuchel’s disposal, it’s difficult to feel sorry for Chelsea where injuries are concerned.
Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, Saul Niguez and Ruben Loftus-Cheek can all deputise for Kante.
Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner have Mount’s number.
Callum Hudson-Odoi and Cesar Azpilicueta are there to fill in for James.
But this isn’t to say the Blues are weakened without their vacant quartet.