For much of the past week, the entire world of football has been embroiled in the European Super League debacle, with Chelsea central to much of the debate and attention. The effects of all those distractions showed in the tepid performance against Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday, with the Blues lucky in the end to hang on to a scoreless draw. Chelsea did move back up to fourth with that result, but the gaps are incredibly small as four teams vie for the last Champions League spot.
With two major trophies on the line and a top four finish in the league as well, it's for everyone's betterment to move on from that saga as we enter the final phase of the season.
One player who’s unfortunately getting better very slowly is Mateo Kovacic, whose hamstring is expected to keep him out for at least another week, against both West Ham and probably Real Madrid on Tuesday as well.
"Mateo Kovacic is still out but everybody else is available.
"For me personally, I think we can hope for Fulham but don’t take that as medical advice. Maybe the physios and doctors will kill me for that but I think it’s maybe possible to be back again against Fulham, which is in between the Madrid games.
"Madrid [first leg] will be very close because he has not trained with the team so Fulham is more realistic."
Tuchel rotated a fair few players for Tuesday’s game, including giving Kepa Arrizabalaga a rare start in the Premier League. Like the last time, this was just a reward for Kepa’s good play in a cup match, and his attitude in training — and to keep spirits and competition levels high on the training ground.
Kepa has repaid that faith by keeping a clean sheets in all five his appearances thus far under Tuchel, but there’s no threat to Edouard Mendy’s position as first-choice at the moment.
"Mendy is in goal. The change was made for Kepa for the FA Cup game and even before then, the goalkeeper coach and me decided that Kepa would stay one more game after Man City to have it as a reward and feel a bit the rhythm of playing every three days.
"We wanted to reward what he is doing in training and in the dressing room which is simply outstanding in terms of quality and personality so I’m very happy he could show it on the pitch.
"He had two clean sheets in two difficult matches for us so it’s a very good feeling that we can absolutely can rely on two goalkeepers and they can produce clean sheets. They earn our trust but the situation in general has not changed so Edou will be in goal tomorrow."
Chelsea have just 3 wins from our last 8 Premier League games. Our hold on fourth is precarious, to say the least, with only goal difference separating us from West Ham and Liverpool and Tottenham continuing to breathe down our necks just a couple points behind.
Tuchel has a plan to take all three points from an impressive West Ham, though as usual, the talking has to translate to the pitch and executed well by the players.
"The good news is that we are totally focused on the game with no other subjects around. We clearly expect a tough match. West Ham are a very strong team that rely on solidarity and discipline, which is the basis for a very dangerous counter-attacking side.
"They are relying on their set-pieces, which is a real threat, so the challenge is clear. We want to control the match, reduce ball losses to a minimum, close the spaces very intelligently before counter-attacks can even start and give away as few set-pieces as possible. That’s the plan but there are a lot of things to do so it’s a big challenge."
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Chelsea FC
Time to win against a direct rival for the top four position!