Chelsea took just 19 non-injured players to Germany today, ahead of Thursday’s Europa League semifinal first leg against Eintracht Frankfurt.
Of the 19, only two are recognized centre backs, David Luiz and Andreas Christensen, with Gary Cahill’s name left off once again despite the season-ending injury to Antonio Rüdiger. Cahill had been ostracized basically all season, but this time apparently the reason is a bit more understandable.
“Cahill is out, a problem with the Achilles tendon. He is out for the moment. I hope to have him back in one week. But he is out starting four or five days ago. So we are in trouble with the centre-backs.”
If needed, César Azpilicueta will step in, having spent the last two seasons playing as on the right side of back-three under Antonio Conte, and doing better at it than in his current, more “natural” position of right back.
“In trainings we played with Azpilicueta at centre-back, in case as he is the only one who can play there. It is normal, it can happen that we are in trouble. We have had a lot of games and been lucky with injuries.”
But not quite lucky enough, as the minutes caught up with Rüdiger, who had been dealing with a minor problem for some time as it turns out. He’s now out until at least the start of next season.
“Rudi is out for at least three months, I spoke to him and he is disappointed. When you have a serious injury it is difficult to remain the same. He is very strong and will come back better than before. He is disappointed.”
“We tried to reach to the end of the season, but the injury was there. He had a problem with the meniscus. We tried to reach to the end of the season, he was unlucky. The situation, with or without the match was the same. At the end of the season he would have had surgery.”
With Rüdiger and Cahill out of the frame, it is up to youngster Andreas Christensen to step up to the plate and hold his own against the likes of Luka Jovic and Ante Rebic. Sarri trusts the 23-year-old, who made several crucial errors in similar key situations last season, but has played well in some of our most important matches this season.
“Christensen has played about 25 matches, I am sure he is ready to play in every match. The only problem is the number. I am confident with Andreas, because he is ready. He has played important matches very well.”
Chelsea may be the bookies’ favorite for winning this competition, but Eintracht certainly aren’t slouches either. They currently occupy the fourth position in the Bundesliga table, and have only lost 1 of their 12 games in the European competition, a 4-2 defeat in the quarterfinal first leg against Benfica that they overturned at home with a 2-0 victory.
Sarri sees a lot of similarities between Frankfurt and our last round opponents, Slavia Prague. Problem is, Frankfurt are a better side, and that can make things quite tricky for Chelsea if we do not pay close attention to what they do on the pitch.
“I respect Frankfurt. They have played against big teams and are a dynamic team with a great intensity and physically with the same characteristics as Prague, but the quality is better, especially offensive. So it will be difficult to get to the final.”
-Maurizio Sarri; Source: football.london
But possibly not as difficult as finishing in the top four, and you don’t even get a trophy for that!