Chelsea once again have injury and Covid-19 concerns in midfield heading into their visit to Wolves in the Premier League on Sunday.
Thomas Tuchel has already had to deal with a lack of numbers in the middle of the park and he has a headache again, with Jorginho and Ruben Loftus-Cheek both doubtful for the game at Molineux.
“If you want to have my very honest opinion, we have again Jorginho a doubt for Sunday, because he’s in pain. We have Ruben Loftus-Cheek a doubt, because he’s in pain. So do we know that they can travel with us tomorrow? No we don’t,” the German revealed in his pre-match press conference on Friday.
Tuchel has been boosted by the return of Mateo Kovacic to training after a two-month absence and N’Golo Kante was an unused substitute for the draw with Everton in midweek after making his return from a three-week absence.
The German added:: “Mateo had his first day in training, today.
“I don’t know if it’s possible for them to play on Sunday, so maybe we will start with N’Golo And Mateo.
“Would that be fair? No. Would that be possible? I don’t know, but maybe we do.”
But up front, Tuchel is very short on numbers once again. Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi are isolating after positive Covid-19 tests on Wednesday and will not travel to the West Midlands.
Kai Havertz will be in contention, though, after he returned a negative result having missed the Everton game through illness.
“No more positive results at the moment,” Tuchel informed. “Of course, but the lottery starts again tomorrow morning and tomorrow afternoon. We’re happy in the moment that Kai [Havertz] has more than one negative result. So he’s back in training, and let’s see.”
With everything in mind including injury and Covid-19 news, football.london takes a look at three possible ways that the European Champions could line-up in this game as they aim to get back to winning ways quickly.
Multiple changes from Everton
With the makeshift team against Rafa Benitez’ men failing to yield the three points for Tuchel, it is clear enough that Tuchel will have to make vast changes.
Pulisic starting up top was a disaster in the end so having that focal point in the form of the £70million man could help aid the attacking dynamism of the side.
Possible Chelsea line-up vs Wolves (1)- Mendy; Chalobah, Silva, Rudiger; James, Kovacic, Kante, Alonso; Mount, Ziyech, Havertz.
Consistency could be the key
Despite the poor output from the whole team against the Merseyside based club on Thursday night, Tuchel could give the same side another chance to correct their mistakes.
“But at the same time we have to accept that we played a very good match of football, created a lot of chances and got punished,” Tuchel reflected in a rather positive way on Friday afternoon.
“It happens in the moment and still I agree with you there are good signs, good behaviours, good data, and there’s good energy.
“Look at the pure joy of the team when we scored, how everybody felt this relief and what the effort we put in. If we continue to put the effort in we will get the output, there is no alternative to giving everything.
“There’s no guarantee for results, so we’ll keep on pushing for maximum effort and output, but it’s not that easy, it’s only one day after the game, to brush it all off your shoulders.
“But we are in the middle of it.”
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Of course, Jorginho and Loftus-Cheek are massive doubts so we are likely to see at least one rested completely and with the Italian having suffered injury problems for a longer period, the latter of the two could make it in time for this one.
With such a tight turnaround between fixtures, this is realistically the least likely of the three hypothetical line-ups when the team news is released at 1 PM today.
Possible Chelsea line-up vs Wolves (2): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger; James, Loftus-Cheek, Kante; Mount, Ziyech, Pulisic.
Saul Niguez redemption
Despite scathing criticism from Thursday night which included unwanted Tiemoue Bakayoko comparisons, the German came to the staunch defence of a player that he requested was signed on deadline day.
Unfortunately for Saul, he hasn’t yet been able to settle into the increased tempo of the Premier League and therefore has looked out of place as a result.
However with the various injury problems in the midfield area coupled with the caution of not wanting to rush both Kante and Kovacic back, the Spaniard could be offered another chance to silence his critics .
“For Saul, does he feel the same that he is absolutely the same role and responsibility as he had at Atletico? No, maybe not yet,” Tuchel said.
“Does he struggle? Yes, he struggles. Was he the first player to struggle in the Premier League? No and he won’t be the last one. We protect our players and I will protect our players always.
“He played [Thursday] as a No. six, No. nine and as a wing-back. Is that fair to him? No, also it is not. Put it into context and you will have a more moderate picture and reaction.
“I understand people are disappointed after yesterday [Thursday] but reactions like this are the reasons why I am not involved on social media. It is why I protect myself and you can get carried away.
“I can only hope Saul does not read it and why should he? He knows what he needs to do to improve and he is doing everything. He struggles at the moment and we are still trying to find the best version of him and will not stop pushing.”
With this backing in mind coupled with his hard work and determination shown in Friday Cobham training, this encounter may be the first where we see the true version of the 27-year-old finally arrive to the party.
Possible Chelsea line-up vs Wolves (3): Mendy; Chalobah, Silva, Rudiger; James, Saul, Kante, Alonso; Mount, Ziyech, Havertz.