Premier League table-toppers Chelsea host bottom placed Norwich City tomorrow noon at Stamford Bridge. But while Chelsea may be deemed the overwhelming favourites, especially after an impressive 4-0 victory against Malmö midweek, injuries to Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner have put a significant dent in the squad — with Christian Pulisic still out of contention as well.
Head coach Thomas Tuchel has ruled out both Lukaku and Werner for at least the next two games, but without a solid estimate or diagnosis, has refused to speculate on a return time beyond that.
"All three of them are out for tomorrow.
“No big news for Romelu and Timo, I can say they are out for tomorrow and they will be out for the Southampton game and from there we see what’s next.
“I don’t think it makes any sense that we go into speculation about how long it’s going to be. [The] one thing I can tell you for sure is that they are both in treatment, they are both feeling positive, they are not too worried and are out for the next two games for sure, and then we’ll see.”
However, Chelsea's attacking woes do not end with the injured players.
Hakim Ziyech has been in poor form for much of the season, compelling Tuchel to relegate him to the bench. He’s started just one game in the league, and in fact hasn’t featured in the league at all since those 90 minutes against Aston Villa in early September.
And despite the injuries up front, it doesn’t sound like Tuchel’s ready to trust Ziyech just yet.
“He was in the team in the beginning of the season because of performance, because it was so obvious after the pre-season that he has to be on the pitch.
“He scored and then had the injury in the Super Cup game and from there I felt that it cost him a lot because maybe even until today I don’t feel him 100 percent free with his shoulders [...] even if it is maybe no pain, even if it is maybe unconscious, subconscious there is something that limits him in his movements and in his freedom to move to turn and to accelerate and decelerate and I think he needs time and patience to fight his way back into the team.
“That is the way it is. Looking for a spot while he was out, some other guys performed even guys who came on from the pitch performed straight. He is one of our players and we will never lose trust and we will never lose patience with him. He will stay an important player.”
And so, once again Tuchel has been left with the job to find the right attacking combination and balance in the absence of some key players. Callum Hudson-Odoi and Kai Havertz now have an opportunity to grab their chance(s) with both hands.
“We cannot now constantly talk about who is injured, we have to find solutions and we will find solutions because we trust our squad and the guys who stepped in played a good match and it’s up to them to keep on going tomorrow.
“[Havertz] is also very very strong in the last line and behind it, arriving in the box. It is a big strength for him, we want him to do what he did against Malmo. This is what we expect of him tomorrow.
“If you have Romelu then you have the nine and a reference up front to create spaces and half spaces. Ok if we don’t have him the game will be different but in the end we have the same power, the same number of people in the same spaces in the opponent’s box to finish our attacks. That does not change.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Chelsea's attacking depth will be tested starting tomorrow, and a win would be the perfect way to continue our hold on the top position.