It’s a strange situation, these last two games, for those involved in them. They may be competitive games, by definition, but in essence, they’re little more than post-season friendlies.
Neither Chelsea, nor Leicester City, nor Sunday’s opponents Watford have anything truly tangible to play for. Chelsea will finish top-four, Leicester will finish midtable, Watford are going down. The minor differences in prize money are not going to serve as motivation. Personal pride and professionalism will. But it’s hard to expect anything too serious, especially in match No.62 and No.63 of a grueling emotional and physical roller-coaster of a season.
It’s a strange situation even for head coach Thomas Tuchel, never one for sentiment, who knows no other way to approach a game than with full commitment and desire to win.
“I am normally used to doing what is best for the next game, not for whatever. The guys that deserve it will play. [...] Everybody deserves to play [but] let’s wait and see how everybody feels about it and who is hungry to perform. This will be the most decisive factor in the line-up.”
It’s perhaps not an accidental turn of phrase and emphasis from Tuchel, especially after the sideshow of Andreas Christensen’s last-minute withdrawal from the squad on Saturday.
While Tuchel has played down the suggestions and accusations of Christensen simply making up an excuse not to play, you get the sense that the boss is not exactly pleased with how the 26-year-old has conducted himself — and not just on Saturday but in the last few weeks, whatever the (personal and private) reasons may be.
“Andreas came in the morning of the match to inform me, to speak to me. He told me he was not ready to play the match, to start the match and be on the bench. He had his reasons. They stay private and confidential.
“[He] has our support still, but for tomorrow I am unsure. [...] It was very short notice before the cup final – and not only before this match. There were other matches the weeks before. So no chance I have a prediction before tomorrow or the weekend. [...] I don’t think it’s that he does not want to play, he was not able to play. It’s a big difference.”
“[We] had to accept it, and we will accept it. I try the best I can to not take things personally, and I still believe Andreas wanted to play these kinds of matches. [But] he struggled over the last weeks, as you can see when he was not in the squad or not playing although he was physically available, not injured.
“[We] thought we prepared in the best way possible for him in Leeds, where he managed a lot of pressure on us in a very impressive way. We thought we had him available. He is a key player. If you arrive in a final against Liverpool, you want everybody available, which was not the case.”
Thiago Silva played 120 minutes at 37 years old after an early injury, and limped out of Wembley.— LDN (@LDNFootbalI) May 16, 2022
Mateo Kovačić played with a heavily swollen ankle, receiving the injury just three days prior.
And Christensen’s not the only one expected to miss out on Thursday and perhaps on Sunday as well. Kai Havertz and Timo Werner are doubtful at best, Mateo Kovačić should certainly be resting his ankle, and Callum Hudson-Odoi has now been ruled out for the rest of the season with whatever the story is with his Achilles. (No word on Thiago Silva, so hopefully he’s good.)
“Kai tries today in training. He did individual training yesterday but was not in team training. So it’s still a big question mark. Timo is out with a hamstring injury. Ben Chilwell [...] of course, not available for the match. Everybody could see that Kova had a big swollen ankle after the match and did not train yesterday. So I’m not sure he will be available.”
“[Hudson-Odoi’s] still in individual training, progressing but not in team training. He will come early in pre-season like Chilwell to start a programme to be back on July 2 with team training.”
Regardless of who plays, Tuchel will be expecting their best, as always.
“[We] still have to play for us, our demands, and our fans [and] our expectations.
“[We] are very happy we secured a top-four place, this is what the first target when we start the season, what we play for, but still it is two home games, and we will do everything to win them for our feeling, our supporters and for a positive end of the season. [We] will prepare for the very best version of Leicester, and we will need the very best version of us to be competitive.
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Time to finish the season with some good vibes.