Chelsea’s injury crisis, especially in midfield, seems to be abating a bit finally, with only Mateo Kovačić and Ben Chilwell currently unavailable for Thursday’s match against Everton at Stamford Bridge.
And while those just returning to fitness may not be quite ready to start or play at their highest level — for example, Romelu Lukaku may still only be fit for “70-plus” minutes — just having them on the bench could make a big difference this week and going forward into the busy festive fixtures.
“N’Golo will be back on the bench tomorrow; he did the last two training sessions. Trevoh Chalobah will also be back in the squad as did the last two training sessions as well. So it’s Mateo Kovacic and Ben Chilwell out at the moment.”
“Mateo is released [from isolation] on the day after tomorrow maybe. Then we need to see. He has then been out for seven to eight weeks overall with injury and Covid.
“It is then one thing to have NG back on the bench, have Mateo back at the end of the week. Whether it is really NG or Mateo? I doubt it. It will take a while but it will be a good day for us when both of them are back.”
“With fitness, we can debate endlessly what is fit and what is not fit. A player will say I am fit, maybe some fitness coaches will agree, disagree, then comes the head coach and maybe disagrees or agrees. It depends on the game or the intensity of the game. We let [Lukaku] play 70 something minutes against Zenit. Then we had a lot of travelling and lack of sleep and a very intensive opponent with Leeds so we decided not put him in this straight away. I think he can play 70-plus but it depends on how the game goes.”
Incidentally, scoring goals has not been too much of a problem as of late, even if some of them may have come from the penalty spot, with eight goals scored in our last three games in all competitions (and 18 in our 7). The troubles have lay rather uncharacteristically at the other end, with eight goals also conceded in our last three games in all competitions.
Priority number one is to get that defensive consistency back in our game — which depends not only on the defenders, but the midfield, and the counter-press, and effort and focus and so on and so forth.
“We were spoilt. It shows hard it is, teaches us this lesson. Maybe we over-expect clean sheets from us. In the last three games, we’ve conceded eight goals and this is more concerning than having a clean sheet because to have clean sheets in the competitions we play, you need luck, an extraordinary goalkeeper, a certain momentum.
“This is what we had at the beginning of the season to escape sometimes. One goal conceded is always possible, even if you do everything right. But three, three and two is a bit too much if we are honest
“We are on it. It makes you appreciate, it makes you understand how hard we worked before and what it takes to be so consistent in not conceding and we want to get back on track it is clear.
“Maybe it shows us how much details matter. How much individual top level in every situation matters and hopefully we get this consistency in not conceding back into our game because it is crucial if you want to win consecutive football matches on this level.”
This is our challenge to overcome and fight through to keep pace with Manchester City (who already won in this round) and Liverpool, who are both in good moments. They’ve had their own hiccups this season already, so now it’s a question of who can keep things going the longest. Titles can certainly be lost in the winter (and sometimes even won).
“Not so long ago it was the opposite position and Man City turned things around and I think that in the moment they have good form, they show it and their quality. [They] have shown consistency for years and to be in a title race with Liverpool. Both teams have no injury issues at the moment and this helps a lot but we knew before that if we demand from ourselves to compete with them for the title that we will face adversity and tough moments.
“This was clear before so we cannot be surprised now. We cannot give in now or give up, this is simply impossible because we knew before we committed before and we enjoy being in the middle of adversity and difficult moments. [Now] the next one is in front of us against Everton, we play at home and we do what we can to get three points.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London