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Thiago Silva back as Chelsea look to navigate congested schedule with ‘tired group’

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Five subs could’ve been useful, ey?

Manchester United v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Less than 72 hours will have passed between kick-off in Krasnodar and kick-off in Burnley on Saturday, with Chelsea spending a solid portion of that just covering the 5000mi round-trip to Southern Russia for our midweek Champions League commitment.

Obviously, that’s not exactly part of any ideal preparation for an away test against Sean Dyche & Co, but that’s what we and head coach Frank Lampard has got to deal with.

“It’s a tired group, we arrived back quite late in the early hours of this morning. So I’ll have to assess everybody, as much tomorrow as today, and see how everyone settles down over the next 24 hours and we’ll see where we’re at.”

Even in normal times, this would pose a challenge, let alone in a season shortened and congested even more by a pandemic. Hey, you know what could’ve helped a little bit? Five subs.

Alas, the Premier League in all their short-sighted wisdom, refused to allow that change to stay from Project Restart, citing concerns about fairness. Not sure how fair it is to run the players into the ground instead, so teams will likely rotate even more, which will favor the “big teams” just the same as more subs would have. Lampard, like Klopp and Guardiola, is not too happy with being restricted to just three subs, even if he himself isn’t always the quickest to pull the trigger on making in-game changes.

“It will be a season like no other and none of us can control that. We can’t control the injuries that come upon us at different times. You can’t always read them whether they are impact injuries like Van Dijk, which was big news, or muscle injuries that we are seeing more of at this stage of the season.

“The ball was certainly dropped when the Premier League turned away from having five subs. These are unprecedented times in terms of situations for football. It will carry on, it’s not going anywhere in the short term. The demands on players are huge for every club. I’m not just talking about my squad, I’m talking about every football player that is being asked to play day after day and the injury risk. It has changed the landscape.

“We’ll try to manage it as well as we can. We’re fortunate we have a big squad here. At the same time we want to do our best, the pressure is on and the players want to get the right results. We do. It could certainly have a big effect this year, more than any other year.”

This was one of the reasons Chelsea rested Thiago Silva for the midweek trip, letting him stay in London to rest up for the Burnley test — complete with fancy leg recovery wraps. The 36-year-old is set to return to his place in central defense, even as Chelsea finally kept a clean sheet without him in the starting lineup on Wednesday.

(Also, Kepa’s not set to return.)

“Thiago’s fit, taking him out of the trip to Russia was more of a maintenance issue for him. Kepa has got some progression in his shoulder injury, so we’re hopeful but we’ll see with that one.”

“With Thiago [...] it’s just trying to make sure that we get the best out of him over the course of the season. And in this schedule where we have game after game after game, and a game that involved a lot of travelling, it just made good sense.

“I spoke to Thiago, and if he’d had to play in that game of course he could have played it but we have to put it in the context of what we’ve got ahead of us. So it ended up a nice exercise in the fact we got a result, and Toni Rudiger came in and played really well last night. That’s a competition we need as well, you can’t just rely on a starting XI.”

-Frank Lampard; source: Football.London

If Chelsea can stay fit and Lampard can pick the right combinations in defense, midfield, and attack, we just might be able to navigate this strange season to good effect.