There is very little Thomas Tuchel has got wrong as Chelsea head coach. A couple of substitutions perhaps. Maybe the odd selection decision. But on the whole, the German’s work has been exemplary.
Under Tuchel’s watch, the Blues have moved into the Premier League top four and built a two-point lead over fifth-place West Ham United.
They’ve also secured their spot in the FA Cup semi-finals; that was achieved courtesy of a 2-0 victory over Sheffield United yesterday.
The standout achievement thus far has been reaching the Champions League quarter-finals after overcoming Atletico Madrid. Although that Chelsea have kept 12 clean sheets in 14 matches with Tuchel at the helm is an equally impressive feat.
The international break will give the 47-year-old much-needed time to reflect on what he has done so far since replacing Frank Lampard and the opportunity to prepare for what’s ahead.
West Bromwich Albion come first and the visit of Sam Allardyce’s side to Stamford Bridge may just prove to be one of the most difficult assignments Tuchel has faced in England.
Not because the Baggies are overly threatening. They’re quite the opposite in fact. West Brom have claimed seven points from their last ten matches in the Premier League – only Southampton have claimed fewer points over the same time period – and have struck just five goals.
Given Chelsea’s defensive record and the inability of West Brom to score goals, many will instantly assume the game will end in a routine victory for the Blues. It may still do, of course, given the quality at Tuchel’s disposal.
But the Chelsea head coach will almost certainly not feel comfortable ahead of the game. The international break will see to that.
The Blues will take on West Brom on Saturday, April 3. It is the early kick-off (12.30pm), the first Premier League game of the weekend.
And that will cause Tuchel a headache given it’s likely several members of the Chelsea first-team squad will not have returned to Cobham until the day before the game.
Eleven Chelsea players are scheduled to be in action on the evening of Wednesday, March 31. These are Callum Hudson-Odoi, Andreas Christensen, Olivier Giroud, N’Golo Kante, Kurt Zouma, Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Mason Mount, Emerson, Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Antonio Rudiger.
Of that group, six are playing away from home. And unless the Blues charter flights to bring them straight back to England – something Liverpool have done in the past – those players will have to return to their respective countries before boarding another plane to London.
They would, at best, arrive home in the early hours of Thursday morning and would almost certainly need the majority of the day to recover before heading back to Cobham. And that is the challenge that Tuchel faces.
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The German will not have a great deal of time to tacticall prepare his Chelsea side to take on West Brom, so it’s likely he uses to those who haven’t travelled, such as Edouard Mendy, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, and fitness permitting, Thiago Silva, Jorginho and Tammy Abraham.
Mateo Kovacic, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech may also all be involved as they are in action on Tuesday, March 30, so have an additional day to return to Cobham to work with Tuchel.
That group, with two or three more weary players added in, would certainly have enough quality to overcome West Brom. It won’t be easy, however.