After a thoroughly convincing 3-0 victory against Crystal Palace last weekend in the first game of the new Premier League season, Chelsea travel across town to face rivals Arsenal on Sunday in the second.
Two players who missed that first game, Hakim Ziyech and N’Golo Kanté, have since returned and will likely be available for selection. However, Thomas Tuchel confirmed the rumors that Christian Pulisic has tested positive for COVID-19, and is thus following the isolation protocols necessary in this case. (UPDATE: Pulisic confirmed in his own Instagram story that he’s “fully vaccinated” and asymptomatic.)
"Christian is an easy one to explain: he had a positive test and is following the protocols. Unfortunately, he is not fit to train or [available] for the game.
"Hakim and N'Golo were both in training today. They have done everything since yesterday to be in training today. They have had absolutely no problems so we absolutely have to have more physical and intense training sessions tomorrow with them and the team.
"We will decide after tomorrow's training session at 11 but right now, it seems very positive that both can be in the squad for Sunday."
Tuchel also confirmed Romelu Lukaku's impending second debut for Chelsea, though it remains to be seen whether it’s a “full” debut from the start or only off the bench after some high intensity training sessions this week to get him up to speed.
"We have one more training session to go, but the week was a heavy load for him because he was in the group with the late starters from our guys.
"So it was a kind of overload week so far, today was low intensity and tomorrow we will have an important training before the match. But we are hoping he's on the pitch for Sunday and things look like it."
Chelsea's record against Arsenal in domestic competitions since 2016 makes for painful reading. In those 16 games, we have only 4 wins to show, along with 4 draws and 8 losses, including not one, but two FA Cup final defeats.
While Arsenal have several players, including ex-Chelsea man Willian out with COVID, their ability to raise their game against us mustn't be underestimated. Tuchel's only competitive encounter with Arsenal also ended in a 1-0 loss at home last season. Safe to say, it's time to improve our record against the Gunners.
"We had a pre-season match without all the fans but we could feel the atmosphere and energy this derby can produce. It's always a tough one, always a tight one. They had a bit of a rough start now and from their perspective, it can be a help that a big rival from within the city arrives now.
"It can create a situation that helps them stick together and try to win the crowd over with a strong performance. We should be absolutely be prepared for the best Arsenal possible. They have qualities, a strong coach, a strong team, a strong line-up, strong signings, so we should prepare for the best Arsenal possible but do what we have to do.
"We have to push our standards to the limit, let's see where our limit is. We want an intense game, we want rhythm and a confident game on and off the ball. This is what we're looking for. Anything else other than a tough game will be a big surprise."
- Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.london
A Lukaku-winner to continue our good start to the season is all I ask!