After a hard-fought 1-0 victory away at Brentford, which maintained Chelsea's one point lead at the top of the Premier League table, the Blues host Swedish champions Malmö FF in the third group game of our Champions League campaign tomorrow.
Malmö are currently bottom of the group with two defeats in just as many games while Chelsea sit above Zenit in second place on goal difference — with Juventus on top having beaten both Malmö and Chelsea. The Blues will look to bounce back from that defeat, and will be able to do so with an almost fully fit squad. Christian Pulisic, who's still recovering from the ankle injury suffered back in September, is the only one set to miss out.
"It’s only Christian Pulisic who is missing for tomorrow.
"He was getting close [to a return] but then had a little reaction with some pain in his ankle. Christian is impatient because he wants to play, he wants to be on the pitch helping us and we can see how much he is suffering in team meetings when he can’t be involved. This is normal.
"It’s difficult for him. He got injured during a match for the USA, he suffered a tough foul and hurt his ankle."
Pulisic's injury record is increasingly a matter of concern, having missed 38 games for Chelsea since his arrival two years ago, the equivalent of an entire Premier League campaign. One of the primary “abilities” of a player is availability and Pulisic has unfortunately not been very good in that regard, and thus unable to show his other qualities on a consistent basis.
His potential contributions could be especially useful with Chelsea's attack looking bland and one dimensional in recent games. A player of Pulisic’s drive and trickery could just be the catalyst that the team need, but Tuchel continues to urge patience from all involved.
"There is nothing to worry about him in terms of hiding details or anything like that. I cannot give you all the information because, simply, I’m not a doctor but he has had some small setbacks from the pain in the ankle.
"These are not setbacks from a major injury or any further complications, it is just from pain in the ankle that disturbs him. Players with quick movements like Christian have to be very careful. The recovery is not happening too easily and when he has some pain or some setback, he’s had to start all over again."
‘"He is very, very close to returning. He had a little reaction with some pain and he just needs to take his time and be patient."
- Thomas Tuchel; source: Chelsea FC
Chelsea's defence and The Human Wall behind them have put in incredible shifts in most of our games this season, which have helped paper over the cracks in attack (ed.note: more likes chasms, really).
The team’s switch to a 3-5-2 shape has not solved those problems yet, but Tuchel & Co are actively working on finding solutions — be that a formation change, or whatever else.
"Yes. Yes and no, we are always thinking about it.
"But is it really a tactical thing? And does it have less value that we are a difficult team to play against rather than being a team that scores always easily three goals?
"Is this the right step to take? This is the question. Of course we can take this step when we are fully convinced it's the moment to select more offensive players.
"But it's also about balance, this game is about balance. And the main point is we stay active no matter what structure we play and the guys help each other on the field. One solution could be like you said to change formation, for more offensive players, so let's see."
- Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Formation change or not, a win against Malmö is the least Chelsea we can and should expect tomorrow.
Up the Blues!