Chelsea are already assured of a spot in the knockout rounds of the Champions League, but whether we enter them as a top seed or not will depend on Wednesday’s results. And with Juventus playing whipping boys Malmö FF, we probably need a win in St Petersburg to keep the top spot — we have the tie-breaker against Juve courtesy of our most impressive 4-0 win against them just a fortnight ago. (That sure seems like a long time ago now, and not just because I was on vacation still!)
That said, in the grand scheme of things, it’s probably not a disaster to finish second in the group. While it would be nice to get what is likely to be a more favorable draw, and a win would be a welcome morale boost after the disappointment of the weekend’s 3-2 defeat at West Ham, the primary concern probably should be load management and the squad’s levels of fitness.
The aforementioned defeat saw two more players pick up knocks (of unknown, though possibly minor-ish severity) in Kai Havertz and Marcos Alonso, while Tuchel also revealed that Jorginho’s been playing through a hip injury and that Romelu Lukaku was still not even really fit for 45 minutes of action even though he was pressed into service at the half. Meanwhile, N’Golo Kanté, Ben Chilwell, Trevoh Chalobah, and Mateo Kovačić remain out. Kova might be back by the weekend, but certainly not yet for this trip.
It should also be noted that our U19s need to not lose (or, to be more precise, absolutely not lose by more than a goal) in our final group match to qualify for the UEFA Youth League second round playoffs (Juve have already won the group), which might restrict any designs we might have on pulling up youngsters to the first-team to help out.