That is the opinion of Frank Lampard, who says Kante, a former Premier League Player of the Year, is ‘the one’ Chelsea midfielder who has the ability to trouble Messi.
The Argentine superstar is enjoying yet another sensational season for club and country – scoring 30 goals in 41 games – and will hope to break his drought against Chelsea in the first leg of the last-16 clash at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday evening.
Lampard rates Messi, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, as the greatest player of all time and admits his former club will need luck to stop him in his tracks.
He told the Evening Standard: ‘Whoever is nearest to him has to take the responsibility to take that space because the minute you let him get his head up and run freely at you, you won’t get near him. I can say that from experience.
‘There will be periods when you just have to back off. The problem is that being at home, there will be people wanting to see Chelsea have a bit of a go at them.
‘But their players are that good, you have to back off to deny them the space where they can really hurt you.
‘It is a fine line for Chelsea. They need to sit back but at the same time put pressure on him so he doesn’t become relaxed on the ball.
‘This is where I think N’Golo Kante will be key. He is the one in Chelsea’s midfield with the abilities you need because he is so quick into the tackle.
‘But it is important all 11 press their opponents, starting with those players at the top of the pitch.’
Chelsea face Barcelona having only managed four wins in all competitions in 2018. They lost two successive Premier League games earlier in the month and are 19 points adrift of Manchester City.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s clash with Barcelona, Eden Hazard said: ‘We need to defend as a team. Because if we don’t against Barcelona we are in trouble, so we need to defend all together and try to play our own football.
‘We have players in our team who like the ball and when we have the ball, we need to play our own football and try to score goals, because the first game is at the Bridge in front of our own fans.
‘We know it is tough to beat Chelsea and we are in a good position.’