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Kanté, Pulisic to miss Zenit bout, but Tuchel could give time to Chelsea’s forgotten men

The Champions!

Chelsea FC Training Session and Press Conference - UEFA Champions League Final 2021 Photo by Chris Lee - Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Chelsea return to Champions League football tomorrow night to start our title defence with a group stage battle against Zenit St. Petersburg at Stamford Bridge. The defending Russian champions are currently top of their Premier League and will certainly try to prove their mettle against the group favorites.

After our 3-0 win over Aston Villa on Saturday, which featured Mateo Kovaćić and new signing Saúl Ñíguez as the starting midfielders, there was a slight bit of hope that we could see N’Golo Kanté come back soon. But while Kanté is on the right path to fully recover from his latest fitness issue, head coach Thomas Tuchel and his staff prefer not to risk a quick return to the pitch — especially in light of the derby against Tottenham coming up over the weekend.

“N’Golo had two training sessions yesterday and trained again today, but the Champions League game comes a bit too early for him. We won’t take the risk with him now at this moment of the season.

“We have decided to give him another load in training tomorrow, then he will have the day off with the rest of the group and then train with us all on Friday to be ready totally for Tottenham on Sunday.”

Another player who will miss the Zenit match is Christian Pulisic, as he’s not even back in training from the injury suffered during the last international break. Sounds like it will be another couple weeks in fact.

“Christian did not train with us today. We said that we were looking for him to return after the international break and for him to have that period of 10 days of training and recovery before returning to the pitch. He’s still in a state of recovery and individual training, so he is not ready just yet.”

We are only five games into the season, but it’s already clear that we will need the entire first-teams squad to perform if we are to compete in all the competitions we’ve entered. And that squad, in both the Premier League and Champions League, includes the forgotten trio of Malang Sarr, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley. With European games allowing for 12 substitutes to be named, all three are expected to be on the bench tomorrow.

And who knows, they might even see some minutes?

“Malang is in the squad, Ruben is in the squad, Ross Barkley was in the squad against Aston Villa on Saturday and is in the squad again.

“We have a tight group, a small group but full of high-quality. For whatever reason they didn’t find any other clubs but that doesn’t matter, now they are in the group. Once you are part of this group, you have to match the high expectations we have of ourselves and you have to do your duty to perform.

“You have to be match-ready, they all are and they have put their personal situations to one side. No promises are made but they are ready to play and I’m happy for them to be part of this group.”

-Thomas Tuchel; Source: Chelsea FC

Time to prove our mettle.