Lukaku, Havertz fitness, Kante injury – three problems Thomas Tuchel must solve ahead of Watford



Fresh from Sunday’s draw with Manchester United, Chelsea are back in Premier League action on Wednesday night as they make the trip to Vicarage Road to face Watford.

As has so often been the case this season, there’s little time for Thomas Tuchel to prepare his side, with recovery being prioritised as the Blues look to bounce back and earn three points.

There were Chelsea frustrations in the clash with the Red Devils, with little time to fix them and little time for injured players to further their recovery in time for the Hornets.

We take a look at the biggest questions Tuchel has to answer.

Who will start up front?

After the Blues’ struggles in front of goal on Sunday, Tuchel’s choice of tactics will be interesting to see. Timo Werner had six shots without testing David De Gea but still found himself with opportunities.

Romelu Lukaku came on in the 82nd minute and still played more than the German coach would have hoped, while Kai Havertz didn’t make it off the bench as he recovers from the hamstring injury that saw him miss the 4-0 win over Juventus.

All of the trio have had injury issues and with the quick turnaround, it is difficult to know how prepared each is to lead the line against Claudio Ranieri’s men.

Will Werner be able to start again in quick succession? Possibly. In his post-match press conference, Tuchel seemed to suggest it was simply game time that the German forward lacked.

He said: “”I think that we still see he hasn’t played for a long time so can we expect that he is on the absolute peak? No, we cannot. It’s what we expect at this moment… it is not easy for him today and you can see he lacks some games and from here we go.”

It seems Lukaku still has further to go, however.

“If he is fully fit he is a starter for us but he is not at the moment,” added Tuchel. “It was more [Lukaku’s time on the pitch against Man United] than I actually wanted but we were so close to the opponent’s goal. I thought maybe he could help with his presence.”

Havertz could arguably either be deemed the freshest of the three or also looking to get back to match fitness after he was not involved at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

How is N’Golo Kante?

Speaking in his pre-match press conference on Friday, Tuchel ruled the midfielder out of the weekend clash with Manchester United and said he expected Kante to be out for around one week.

Tuchel said: “N’Golo (Kante) twisted his knee a little bit. He feels quite better since the game [against Juve] but it seems like he will be out for some days. It’s a matter of days, a matter of one week maybe. We still have a little bit of hope but it will be almost a miracle if he makes it, so we think about a week.”

The fact he wasn’t categorically ruled of the weekend gives some hope he could be available to face Watford, but Tuchel may choose to give him sufficient rest rather than rushing him back.

What is Cesar Azpilicueta’s role?

The Spanish defender has been Mr Dependable for Chelsea throughout his time at the club. He is, quite frankly, a legend.

However, given his ability to play both in the centre and on the right of defence, it has been somewhat surprising to not see him used more often in recent weeks.

Azpilicueta has gone from featuring in Chelsea’s first eight Premier League matches and starting in seven of them, as well as starting the Blues’ first four Champions League matches, to not being able to make it off the bench in Chelsea’s last five league matches.

Obviously, Reece James’ form has made him near undroppable but Tuchel has also opted for a consistent defence in recent weeks.

In the three matches ahead of the international break, the German coach chose Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger in the backline, while Trevoh Chalobah has taken over from Christensen since the resumption of the Premier League.

The veteran still offers plenty to the Blues but it is a scenario worth keeping an eye on, with Azpilicueta’s contract set to expire in the summer, although he is expected to extend his deal at Stamford Bridge.





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