Back from the International break, which seemed to last forever, Chelsea take on West Bromwich Albion tomorrow afternoon with the aim of maintaining our place in the top four.
While a home game against a struggling team placed second to last in the table seems like a favourable fixture, this one comes straight after an international break that saw key players like Kai Havertz and Mason Mount play three games, and even more worryingly, saw N’Golo Kanté pick up another muscular injury.
Fortunately, Kanté’s the only one and early indications are that his hamstring injury is indeed as light as it can be. He’s expected to be fit after next weekend.
"Everyone was training today and we had a good, high quality session. Apart from N’Golo Kante, he wasn’t with the squad and he did some individual work."
"Everybody else was out on the pitch and are all available for tomorrow, which is good news. With N’Golo, we will have to be patient. Will he miss the Porto game? Yes, probably. He is doing individual training and tomorrow’s game comes too soon for him and so he can't be with the squad.
"After tomorrow’s game, we have just three days to prepare [for Porto]. He has a muscle injury, as we communicated with the national team, so my realistic approach is to think further ahead about Porto, maybe the second game against Porto he could be available for."
In better news, Thiago Silva looks ready to return at long last, even if his absence was not felt that much thanks to the great play and form of Andreas Christensen, who came in from the cold to cover for the talismanic defender without any significant drop in quality.
Of course, now Tuchel faces a tough decision — the classic “good problem to have”.
"It's the best situation you can have as a manager. We can substitute players or replace players that are injured without a loss of quality. That is very good and it gives us a good feeling.
“Tomorrow we have Thiago available and everyone else in defence is fit. It's the same with the goalkeepers. It's very important to have this at this time of the season. We need everybody in top shape.”
Chelsea’s defence have been outstanding since Tuchel took charge, and we’re seeing an historically low number of goals conceded in the last two months. But Chelsea have struggled a bit at the other end, and have yet to score more than two goals in any of Tuchel’s games.
Timo Werner has been a major part of that under-performance, and while he did break his goal-scoring drought in the Premier League a few weeks ago, his misfortunes continued at international level, when he managed to miss another sitter for Germany against North Macedonia on Wednesday night. He didn’t start any of Germany’s games during the break, and the disappointment was clear to see on his face. Going into the final quarter of the season, Timo's low confidence is concerning.
Despite his poor goal tally, Werner does contribute greatly in other parts of the game, such as keeping the defence honest anytime a counter-attacking situation develops. His ability to win penalties and assist important goals shouldn’t be ignored either. After all, he's the player with the highest goal contributions in the team.
Tuchel, like Lampard before him, has always shown great confidence in Timo's abilities, at least in public, and that remains the case. Tuchel and believes the goals will come sooner rather than later, but perhaps only after Werner stops forcing the issue.
"Timo will start tomorrow. Yesterday I sent him in from training because he wanted to do some finishing with us. I just sent him in. I said you don’t need that, your body your brain knows how to score. You did it since you were six years old so don’t worry, it will come...”
"Of course, he needs to do something and the best thing to do is to work hard. Work hard against the ball, make runs, don't hesitate, be fearless, don't overthink it. That's easy for me to say but it's the challenge right now for him. Timo will start tomorrow and there we go.”
- Thomas Tuchel; source: Chelsea FC
West Brom don’t concede too many goals, so whether it’s Werner or whoever else, we just have make sure to make them count!