Chelsea will look to maintain our hold on a top four position — which could be third at least temporarily with a win! — as we take on Leeds United away at Elland Road tomorrow lunchtime. The reverse fixture saw Chelsea run away with all three points in what was a thoroughly dominant performance, albeit a physically taxing one which played a part in some languid showing from players in the following games.
Thomas Tuchel will expect his troops to show the same levels of energy if Chelsea are to increase his unbeaten streak to 12 in all competitions. But we will have to do so again without Thiago Silva and Tammy Abraham, who are still dealing with thigh and ankle issues, respectively. Silva hasn’t featured in well over a month now, while Abraham hasn’t been able to make a matchday squad for three straight.
"Thiago had a little setback in training at the end of the training session the day before yesterday. He felt at the very end something around the same area where he was injured so we had to take him off, so he is back into a transition phase but not back into team training.
"Tammy Abraham has still the ankle pain from the tackle against Burnley."
While many surmise that for Abraham the issue isn’t just physical, as he initially seemed okay to play after picking up the knock against Burnley, his performances have suffered both during games and on the training ground. Tuchel wants him to be 100 per cent fit before putting him on the pitch again, which certainly seems reasonable enough.
Tuchel's counter-pressing style requires every outfield player to defend from the front aggressively and unless Tammy shows the required fitness levels to cope with the style — towards which he and the medical team are diligently working — he is set to spend some more time outside the matchday squad.
"Yesterday he came off [in training], the day before he was fine, so these two are out for tomorrow and everybody else is available.
"It is still the pain from a tackle a long time ago now. He does not feel really 100 per cent free and comfortable and I can see it in training, even if he finishes training I see it is not 100 per cent that he has trust in it.
"I have 100 per-cent trust in our medical department, they are fantastic and they take care of it now. First of all it is most important he feels safe and free and feels zero pain, and then we can think about his comeback."
The other man-management situation that’s been making headlines (ed.note: especially across the Pond) has been Christian Pulisic’s, with the young winger yet to start a single Premier League match under Tuchel, despite being one of just two players already familiar with the coach’s style. While Pulisic has been plagued by various muscle injuries and thanks in large part to those has looked a shadow of his Project Restart self with with just 2 goal contributions in 18 appearances in the league, his involvement has been so miniminal that transfer rumours have even started popping up.
But while Tuchel understands and is empathetic towards Pulisic’s situation, one gets the feeling that the 22-year-old has plenty of work to do on the training ground to convince the coach and win back his starting position. In fact, Tuchel expects nothing less from his former player at Borussia Dortmund.
"When you sign and play for Chelsea, it is part of the job description to be patient and impatient at the same time. Impatient because all of my players are competitors, all of them want to play every single minute. This is what they show every day, the hunger and desire, and this is what Christian shows.
"At the same time, when you are not selected by the coach you have to also be patient and not lose confidence and keep on going to be ready any time, because it can happen any time. In the beginning Christian was a bit unlucky because we knew how much of an impact he can have when he comes from the bench, and we used this power and strength from him.
"When it was possible for him to start around the Sheffield United and Barnsley games, he was one game unavailable and the cup game it was a bit too soon, it was a difficult game for him.
"It was not too easy for him but in the end it is the quality from the players that shines on the pitch and it is also the duty of the players to show up and really earn that they play. This is what Christian does, so it can happen at any minute, any game."
- Thomas Tuchel; source: Chelsea FC
On to Elland Road then, with three crucial points at stake. Come on, Chelsea!