After the emotions and dramatics of a two-legged Champions League quarterfinal and an FA Cup semifinal, not to mention some unusual results in the league, over the past couple weeks, it’s time to return to a bit more basic fare as we take on Arsenal at the Bridge on Wednesday night.
But it would be a mistake to relax, despite a five-point cushion (with games in-hand) to fourth and an eleven point deficit (with a game in-hand) to second. Third may seem all but assured, but it’s not quite in the bag yet. In fact, we’re entering a crucial two-week four-game stretch in the Premier League. Back-to-back home games, against Arsenal and West Ham (Sunday) will be followed by back-to-back away games, Manchester United (next Thursday) and Everton (next Sunday). Results during this stretch will determine whether we can indeed relax in the league and focus fully on the FA Cup final, or whether we’ll have to sweat it out for a top-four finish as well.
That’s the next immediate challenge for Tomas Tuchel then, to make sure that our levels don’t drop. We’ve seen not so long ago what can happen when they do.
“These are crucial matches given the task of where we want to be and what we want to achieve [...] a big challenge in terms of the physical challenge, but also mentally to now dive into the next competition and in the main competition: the Premier League.
“It seems like things are pretty safe, but they can turn so, so quickly with the schedule. We want to play a physical game again tomorrow, want to demand again from the team. I accept it is very demanding and challenging for everybody but at the same time it’s what you sign up for when you sign up for Chelsea.
“We demand special things, we want to be a special group. We have to trust the players can overcome again and compete with teams who maybe have more days to prepare, fewer games in their legs, and still on us to push the standards and level.”
It’s a short turnaround from Sunday, and some rotation may be necessary. While Mateo Kovačić is the only new acute injury, others may be in overload and could be given a rest: seven players have started all three of our games in the last ten days, for example, including all three forwards.
“Kova is out for the game, a ligament injury. Hopefully, not be longer than two weeks out. This is a long time for us in terms of games. Hopefully, as short as possible. Callum Hudson-Odoi out for the game and Ben Chilwell is out for the game. There are some players in doubt – which we need to examine – but hopefully, the rest is okay”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Tuchel had some positive words when asked about the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Jorginho, and Trevoh Chalobah, so we’ll see what sort of surprises he might come up with for tomorrow’s starting lineup.