The massive fixtures just keep coming relentlessly, as Chelsea make final preparations for tomorrow’s trip to Anfield, where reigning champions Liverpool are trying to turn around a horrendous run of form (and tons of key injuries) that has seen them drop completely out of the title race and into the top-six melee.
Tuchel's Blues do remain unbeaten after nine in all competitions, but with back-to-back draws in the league, victory is most imperative in this de facto six-pointer. We will have to do so without Thiago Silva once again, who’s only been back to training for a couple days, while Tammy Abraham is unfortunately once again having issues with his ankle and the knock he originally sustained against Newcastle United a few weeks ago.
"Thiago made his first training with the team but did not finish the last exercise, not because of any pain but just to be aware of taking a risk. I assume he will train today but he is not at 100 per cent so he will not join the squad for Liverpool.
“Everyone else is available. Callum has no issue at all. He was training full with the team yesterday.
"Tammy had some problems yesterday on his ankle again. Let’s see how this works out today."
Tammy Abraham's start to life under Tuchel has been eventfully uneventful, but his situation has caused plenty of concern for his long-term future at the club. Twice he's been hooked at half time on the back of poor showings (which still were not too dissimilar from other attackers) while being completely dropped from the matchday squad for “tactical” reasons against Manchester United (even though we get to put 9 on the bench these days).
Tuchel doesn’t think it’s that dramatic of course, and cites the proverbial “good problem” of being able to select only 20 out of a squad of 24 talented players. The head coach believes our leading goal-scorer will come through as a better player from this ordeal (ed.note: which is probably true, but whether he will do so at Chelsea still is perhaps less obviously true).
"It’s my job to push him to his limits. We will not stop doing this and supporting him. It was a tough decision, but we have to make these decisions. It’s a part of my job I do not like, but at the same I like it because it means everybody is available.
"We communicate these decisions clearly. We have to cut it down to 18 players. It’s not always a punishment or a signal, and that was the case here. It was just a choice from alternatives.
"He lacks a bit of luck Tammy, not only in games but also in training, and once the last touch comes back he will be a player we will push forward
- Thomas Tuchel; source: Chelsea FC
Chelsea finished 33 points behind champions Liverpool last season and 15 points off runners-up Manchester City. Roman Abramovich's heavy spending on attackers last summer was aimed at closing the physical and proverbial gap to the two current powerhouses of English football.
While technically Chelsea are above Liverpool in the table right now, that comes with the caveat of Liverpool having suffered a shocking number of injuries to their key starters. Meanwhile, Manchester City continue to be in a different stratosphere, having opened up a 15-point gap over second place Manchester United and a 21-point gap to Chelsea with yesterday’s 4-1 win over Wolves. Some bookies are already paying out on their title-win.
Safe to say, there’s plenty to be done still on and off the pitch to really close the gap and be considered genuine title-challengers rather than top-four-scrappers. That’s a job for next season, truly, but Tuchel can start laying the foundations for it this year (while still ensuring a top-four finish).
"Hopefully. It is our job, nothing else is the job than this. There is no time in football, though we wish for time in football so we want to be a part of the transition, do the transition and while we do that, we want to win games, that is absolutely clear.
"But we feel ready for it and like I said, we have all the right to be confident. We have played Atlético Madrid and Manchester United, two big opponents and two big performances and we can compete on that level, super close games and we are always ready to win these games.
"This is why we are here, to create that spirit and to bring out that talent and quality, keep doing that. Yes, it is an unbelievable run for Manchester City, these are strange times with no fans and spectators because of Coronavirus with no supporters but everybody is suffering in the same way.
"For me the two teams are still the benchmark, Liverpool and Manchester City and we can close the gap. This is the target."
- Thomas Tuchel; source: football.london
The top-four race is once again set to go all the way down to the wire, but games like this will go towards determining the final picture.