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Aubameyang, Zakaria set for debuts as Tuchel looks for ‘next step’ from Chelsea

Pre-match thoughts from the boss


Chelsea have arrived in Croatia on Monday ahead of Tuesday night’s Champions League group stage opener against Dinamo Zagreb, and in addition to starting this campaign, we could see a couple debuts as well. Deadline Day signings Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Denis Zakaria have traveled with the team and could feature, with the latter having sorted his work permit and the former getting used a protective facemask.

On the other hand, Thiago Silva stayed back in London having yet to get a break this season, and while Édouard Mendy is available after all, he may yet take a backseat to Kepa Arrizabalaga in this one.

“We decided with Thiago that he will have a break from the travelling and the stress after playing every minute so far in very intense matches. It was the moment to give him a break instead of putting him on the bench and having the travel issues. He takes care of his recovery.

“We had the opportunity to take everyone who was in training and available to Zagreb to do our last training. That includes Denis and Auba. He had a test with his mask, felt fine, trained normal. If everything goes well today they will both be available. [Mendy is also] available.”

“[For Auba] there was no issue yesterday. I hope there will not be an issue today. Is he ready to start? Of course. He cannot play 90 minutes. It’s on us to take a decision on how we manage the minutes. He needs minutes to get his full fitness and rhythm. It’s on us to find a solution if he comes from the bench or if he starts.”

Chelsea’s win has been shrouded in VAR controversy thanks to the narrative forces of media punditry, and that has also overshadowed a bit yet another largely lackluster performance from the Blues.


Dinamo may be easy on paper, but they are the big dogs in this part of the world and their may be plenty of bite to their bark. We’re going to have to be on top of our game, as usual — though that sort of consistency has been escaping us consistently.

“They are used to winning, it’s a winning team. They are used to be on the top. That shapes a certain mentality. They made it through the qualification, which is never easy. They deserve to be here and I’m pretty sure they will plan to play a very technical, emotional game against us.

“They have individual quality like always, like every team of Dinamo Zagreb and any Croatian team. A lot of individual quality. Upfront they have speed and dribbling, on the wings. They will use the role as an underdog to over-perform and make us underperform. This will be their plan. We are aware of that.

“We are ourselves in a moment where we need to improve, we are not fully happy with the results, with our performances. We need to take the next step. It’s Champions League, very exciting. We are very aware what the challenge is to play in a first match away in a group stage. It’s difficult. It can end up in complicated situations but I think it’s very important that we accept it and play a humble match, don’t get stuck in our own expectations.

“We will accept the fight and the challenge and then we can also have the belief and trust we are able to win. We need to perform, for sure.”

-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London

For sure, for sure.

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