As we return from another two-week international break, the last one for the next several months, Chelsea will look to maintain our three-point lead over Manchester City when we travel to Leicester City for an early, lunchtime kickoff on Saturday.
However, despite the team getting healthier over the break, we will do so still without Romelu Lukaku, Mateo Kovačić, and most likely Timo Werner as well, as confirmed by Thomas Tuchel in today’s pre-match press conference.
"I can tell you that Mateo and Romelu are still out for the game at Leicester tomorrow.
“Romelu is very close to team training, so hopefully he will join the squad on Sunday, let’s see how this works out. He’s pushing hard to try to come back as soon as possible, and we will try on Sunday. Mateo needs another days before he can return to team training, so he will miss some more matches.
“Timo is in team training since yesterday, so let’s see we have another training in two hours and then we decide if it makes sense if he’s in the squad or on the bench. We’ll decide after the second training later.
Lukaku kept us engaged during the break with his non-robotic tweets that included music, lifestyle and glimpses of his recovery routine, and also signaled his return to training for the first time since injuring his ankle against Malmö in the Champions League fixture.
However, we still cannot put a specific timeline to his return.
“It’s pure speculation and will not help. All I can say is that at the moment we will try hard that he can join team training on Sunday. If everything works out perfectly and he is in team training on Sunday, then on Monday okay he can maybe join the group on the bench. But there are a lot of ‘ifs’, and I don’t want to put pressure on him.
“He’s putting a lot of pressure on himself. We will not rush things, we will take things seriously as always, we will have lots of talks with the doctors and the physios before we make any decisions. If there is something to be decided it’s good, and if so, it will be decided on Monday.”
In better news, Christian Pulisic returned unharmed from his CONCACAF adventures, and with a couple substitute appearances under his belt (including one very impressive one) that should hopefully set him up to perform during the upcoming busy period.
And Thiago Silva and Mason Mount are also in contention to feature in the first game back from the break, which hasn’t always been the case thanks to fatigue and travel associated with international duty.
“Christian Pulisic feels fine, Thiago Silva will be in the training. He has some travel in his body and some time differences, so let’s see how this works out.
“I’m confident that Mason is back in training, looking hungry, fresh and in a good spirits but we need to evaluate. He did this week’s training sessions, looks good but we need to see if he can start, if he can play 90 minutes.”
So, not quite as ideal as the Chelsea official website’s updates from the training ground throughout this week made it sound like, but still better than it was before, and still improving.
Regardless of who plays, we will need to get back into the swing of things quickly and effectively. First games back from international breaks are always tough, and an early Saturday kickoff away only compounds that difficulty. But, if we are to keep the title-challenge going, we must overcome this challenge as well.
“I don’t think you will find a lot of coaches who like it, to have a full squad on Friday to play on Saturday at 1230. But it’s the challenge, and there are no excuses and we will not start opening the discussion about excuses.
“We will arrive well prepared in Leicester tonight and then it’s on us to show how strong we are tomorrow. [...] I expect a tough [game] but I also expect our team to play with hunger, passion and with a will to win. This is a mindset we want to install again to restart winning and our engine after the break.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Let’s hope the batteries aren’t dead and there’s plenty of fuel in the tank!