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Thomas Tuchel confirms Ben Chilwell ACL injury, provides updates on Mateo Kovacic, N’Golo Kanté, Romelu Lukaku

Pre-match press conference

Chelsea Training Session & Press Conference Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

The celebrations from the great performance and 4-0 Chelsea win over Juventus last Tuesday in the Champions League, rapidly turned to worries over knee injuries picked up by Ben Chilwell and N’Golo Kanté. Both have been massive in maintaining the Blues at the Premier League’s top spot, and the prospect of losing both in the long-term is somewhat daunting.

Unfortunately, the reports claiming we would lose Chilwell to an ACL injury at least until the end of the year were confirmed today by Thomas Tuchel, in his press conference ahead of our Premier League clash with Manchester United this Sunday at Stamford Bridge. The manager also confirmed Chelsea are not rushing towards a full diagnosis, by first letting his knee heal naturally and then assessing whether he will need surgery.

“Ben is out. He has a partial injury of his ACL and the decision is to treat it conservatively.

“The next six weeks will tell the story if he makes it and will be fully available, or if he needs surgery after that.”

While Tuchel is right in saying it is never good to lose a player to injury, the prospect of not having Chilwell around in December — a month in which Chelsea have nine matches in their schedule — is arguably the worst timing we could have. Nevertheless the focus right now is on his recovery, as the defender is (thankfully) responding quite well to initial treatment on his knee.

“I only care about the next six weeks. We are positive because the first reaction of his body is good so we hope it stays like this.

“Everybody’s focus is on the next six weeks to get him back on the pitch. After all the examinations, it’s a very sensible decision so there is no pressure. The decision is made and the next weeks will give the direction.

“There is never a good moment for big injuries or injuries in general but Ben is actually very positive at the moment. I just spoke to him a few minutes ago and his body has responded well to the first treatment and the injury so we have to focus on the positive things.”

Before entering the pitch against Juve, Chelsea were already hurting in their midfield depth with Mateo Kovacic absent from the match due to a hamstring issue. And 37 minutes into the bout with the Old Lady, we see Kanté leaving the pitch early due to injury.

Chelsea FC v Juventus: Group H - UEFA Champions League Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images

According to Tuchel, Kovacic will still be out for the encounter against United. Whereas with Kanté, while there is a tiny chance he will be fit enough to face United, he will most likely not be ready despite feeling ‘quite better’ after the injury scare last Tuesday.

“Kova is still out for the game on Sunday.

“N’Golo twisted his knee a little bit [against Juventus]. He feels quite better since the game but it seems like he will be out for some days or one week maybe. We have a little hope but it would be almost a miracle if he makes it [to play Manchester United].”

Chelsea have been running around without a “proper” centre-forward leading their attacking since October, when Romelu Lukaku was forced out of the pitch due to an injury picked up in a 4-0 win at home against Malmö — also in the Champions League. But that has clearly not been an impediment to the Blues as we have scored 20 goals in seven matches since then.

Lukaku has been back to the fold since our return from the last international break, and he was an unselected sub in our last game. While the 28-year-old would be more than keen to start against his former team this weekend, it seems Tuchel does not want to introduce change that might affect the good balance the Blues currently have at the moment.

“If you ask the player, he will say he can start for sure! But there is a bit of a difference between being ready for training and ready for games, and also between being ready for games and for Premier League games.

“This is another step. We only have three changes so the possibility that he starts is not very high because we cannot be sure what happens in between matches. We have to find the balance between giving minutes but also being competitive for 90 minutes with the guys who play.”

-Thomas Tuchel; Source: Chelsea FC

Such is the beauty of having so much depth, and so many options in this current Chelsea squad. While reducing Lukaku to an impact sub is certainly not what most expected, at least for now that is the role he will have to play before Tuchel deems him ready to return to our starting lineups.

Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images