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N'Golo Kanté Takes Real Madrid’s Midfield Crown And Declares Himself King

The greatest Premier League title of them all (2015-16 with Leicester City), another with Chelsea (2016-17), the FA Cup (2017-18), the World Cup (2018), the Europa League (2018-19) and now a chance at the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League crown: N'Golo Kanté is one win away from putting the finishing touch on one of the most illustrious personal trophy cabinets in football history.

Operating alongside Jorginho in what frequently looked like a Chelsea 3-4-3 against Real Madrid on Wednesday, Kanté put in a monstrous performance on both ends of the Stamford Bridge pitch.

With Real needing an away goal, los Blancos were breathtakingly aggressive in possession. Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard led the line for Real but alternated taking turns dropping into the space marshaled by Jorginho and Kanté. If that wasn’t difficult enough, Ferland Mendy and Éder Militão frequently pushed forward allowing Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos to threaten from advanced positions.

In the end, Real couldn’t find the goal they needed, and while Édouard Mendy pulled off a few stunning saves to deny them, it was a sensational 90-minute display from Jorginho and Kanté that largely blunted Zinedine Zidane’s side.

The excellence of Jorginho’s positioning was highlighted by the fact that he made a game-leading six interceptions. Kanté was right behind him with four, but it was the 30-year-old Frenchman’s contributions at the other end of the pitch that will live long in the memory.

In the 28th minute, Kanté's brilliant turn on Nacho took the defender out of the equation before drawing the attention of Casemiro. To avoid the Brazilian, Kanté played a quick one-two with Timo Werner before slipping Kai Havertz through on goal. 

It all should’ve amounted to an assist, but Havertz’s super chill dink bounced off the crossbar for Werner to finish. 

With the game on a knife’s edge, Kanté again proved decisive when winning possession in Real’s third, driving infield and slipping it out wide to Christian Pulisic. Pulisic then crossed to Mason Mount for Chelsea’s second in the 85th minute.

Kanté’s final stats show just how influential he was in every facet of the game for the Blues.  

If you want to win the Champions League, you’ve had to battle through the Casemiro-Kroos-Modrić axis since 2015-16. Few have ever accomplished the feat — even with Modrić now 35 and Kroos 31 — and Kanté’s performance highlighted just how good you have to be, as well as how consistently dominant he actually is.     

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