Chelsea losing Edouard Mendy to an injury yesterday was felt worse than losing the three points. Mendy has been a standout goalkeeper all season, and leads the Champions League in clean sheets with seven. Having him miss the final could be almost as detrimental as not having N’Golo Kanté in the team. Fortunately, there’s some good news on the pair.
While the initial prognosis didn’t sound too promising, Mendy's already feeling a lot better, with Tuchel also providing a positive progress update on N’Golo Kanté, who missed the weekend’s match as he continues to recover from a hamstring “awareness”. Caution is still the word, but it sounds like both could be back in time to train, prepare, and play in Saturday’s massive final.
"The situation has not changed with N’Golo in the sense we are still waiting, but it is looking good that he will return to training on Wednesday. I feel like maybe my tactic with him will change, and I will just put him into training on Wednesday! He is looking good and I hope he stays like that for Saturday. We will know more on Wednesday.
"With Edou, the update is that we still have hope that he will join in with training on Wednesday with the group. He made a huge improvement with the management of pain from when the injury happened, which is good but of course we will need a further update on Wednesday. We hope to have him back.
"If he is fit, then Edou will play. We will give him plenty of chance to prove his fitness on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. The race is on. If he cannot play, we will of course be sensible and not take the risk but we also know that we have strong competition from the guys behind and Kepa will take his place if he is not fit."
Chelsea's deep runs in domestic and European cups sandwiched in between the relentless Premier League schedule means that the final will be the 59th game we’ve played this season, and in a month less than usual. We may have a big squad, but the mental and physical exertion required to the get to this point shouldn’t be overlooked.
We’ve rarely had an entire week to prepare for a game, or, as Tuchel’s doing now, to give players a couple days off to refresh, rejuvenate, and replenish their energy reserves.
So, Tuchel and the troops will be back on Wednesday to start preparing for the ultimate test, one for the history books.
"Now is the time for a mental break for the players. I will use tomorrow to think about how we approach the game on Saturday. What are the headlines? The key points? How do we approach it mentally and tactically?
"The players need a little bit of mental rest but we will be back on Wednesday. I want them to be here on Wednesday full of joy. It's maybe one of their most exciting weeks as professional players and we need to embrace the challenge ahead."
- Thomas Tuchel; source: Chelsea FC
Five days to go!