Both Brentford and Chelsea are dealing with various COVID-related issues, including players in isolation, players in overload conditions, and players injured or otherwise unavailable. And while it looks like both teams will be able to field a team to contest Wednesday’s League Cup quarterfinal — first time for Brentford for two weeks — coming up with a starting lineup for Chelsea will require Thomas Tuchel to perform a rather impressive juggling act.
The Blues could be without ten or more first-team players. Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and Ben Chilwell are all in COVID protocol (and Chilwell’s injured anyway). N’Golo Kanté and Mateo Kovacic can’t play after their exertions on Sunday, while Trevoh Chalobah and Andreas Christensen are major doubts due to injuries. Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Hakim Ziyech, while not mentioned by the head coach, are slightly less doubtful, but the former missed out on Sunday and the latter couldn’t finish the game on Sunday. That’s eleven, if you’re counting.
“[Jorginho] had a negative test. It was a wrong positive obviously. And he’s back in training.
“Andreas Christensen is very doubtful through injury. [Then] from the Wolves match we have Trevoh Chalobah injured, a big doubt. Then Mateo Kovacic and Kanté involved which was taking a huge, huge risk and now we are paying for this.”
It was recommended to Tuchel that Kanté play no more than 45 minutes in his first involvement for seven games. He played 90. The head coach simply had no other viable choice.
“What we did with N’Golo Kanté, playing 90 minutes, was close to being irresponsible against Wolverhampton. Will he be involved in the squad against Brentford? No, simply no. It would be possible if it was the last game of the season but not now, we cannot do this and I will not do this. We will give him time to recover for the Aston Villa match.
“[We] cannot let players suffer because others are not there. We have to protect our players, their health and that is why we brought in the academy, it is no secret and we think about playing with them.”
The one bit of good news is that Jorginho’s test this weekend was a false positive, so he’s available. And he just might be joined by ten Academy players, though not Lewis Baker, who was set to be in the squad but unfortunately did test positive non-falsely.
His case highlights exactly why Chelsea were seemingly quite reluctant to bring in the youth players (despite a gap in their match schedules) and expose them to additional risk.
“[The U23s] came over for two training sessions because it was necessary. When they came, we detected Lewis Baker tested positive for Covid so that’s another player out. It was a risk to bring players in from the academy to have it.
“[We] planned a squad with Lewis Baker from the academy and now he is positive so we can start from scratch. This is what we do right now. [To] prepare for the match to be played even to plan training is pretty exciting. Even until the last hour, you don’t know which players will arrive.”
It would be easy to completely discard this game, but we do still want to win it. It is a quarterfinal after all, with a trophy just three wins away. Just another ball to juggle then.
“[We] are so competitive, that is why we work here. That’s why the player signed for Chelsea so we are fighting for every competition.
“I absolutely don’t like judging the importance of the game because you can never tell what that does to you. There is nothing more important than winning, fighting the fights together but that is totally against our nature.
“But we are forced to do it and it makes me sad because that is not what sport is about and what we are about. It can happen tomorrow that we prioritise the health — not the game against Villa — but the health and do not take any risk for some of our players.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Few things more important than winning. Health is certainly one of them.
Win or lose, up the Blues!