Five Chelsea stars ruled out ahead of Zenit Champions League clash as Thomas Tuchel confirms

Thomas Tuchel has confirmed five players will not travel to Zenit due to injury and a positive Covid-19 test and that rotation is likely against the Russian side.

Are you worried about your form given recent results?

“Maybe it seems to you like this, but it actually does not for us. We dropped some points against Man United, we found the solution to win a game at Watford, and we lost with a freak shot at the end of a game at West Ham.

“We’ve had this before, we had this before that we lose games. We don’t like it but we are not worried. We know what to do to win games.”

What’s the latest team news?

“Ben Chilwell is out, N’Golo Kante is out, Trevoh Chalobah is out, Jorginho is out and Mateo Kovacic is out.”

You’ve said your team is overloaded and confidence is low, will you make changes?

“The decisions are not made yet because we just had training, and good training, and we had a bit of an acute overload, due to injuries and schedule.

“We can handle the schedule, but we do have our injuries in some positions, like central midfield. The game tomorrow in isolation is not the problem in terms of being overloaded, it’s more the game that comes up on Saturday because we played the early match on Saturday, we have a late evening game in St Petersburg on Wednesday.

“The guys look fresh and are ready for tomorrow, so we can let any of the players and goalkeepers we have available play. But the problem is the next match on Saturday, we will lose time to sleep, we will arrive back in the very early morning of Thursday.

“On Saturday we will face a very intense team of Leeds, who have prepared the whole week for this match. So long story, short message: there’s a huge chance that we rest some players.

“And maybe, more importantly, we give some players the load who need the load, the minutes and rhythm, to put it another way. The decisions will be made tomorrow, but there’s a huge chance of that.”

Do you enjoy having problems to solve, is it a challenge?

“Yeah, it is like this, I feel it also personally. You have a certain anger in you that you don’t have when you win. You have a certain anger and ambition to turn things around, and it makes you instantly at first feel very bad.

But it also brings out the need in me personally to step up and show a reaction. We try to avoid it because everybody hates to lose, but obviously, it happens.

“We analyse the performance and data again and I don’t think it’s necessary to ask the big questions but we need to step up in details, meet our details to our standards, and we need to do this on the highest level relentlessly.

“We have some space where we can improve in the details but it’s not about the big picture in the moment.”

Do we have to accept N’Golo Kante isn’t superman and it is taking him longer to come back from injuries?

“Me, personally, ‘m not so careful when to bring him back. It’s actually a very open relationship with him, he takes care about this he needs his time. But we don’t have the feeling that it’s about age.

“He’s in general a careful person, he takes care about his body does not want to take risks. And I agree he is the superman, he is the guy who makes the difference, the guy everybody in the whole world wants to have in their midfield.

We’ve missed him, for a long time but can we produce results and top performances without N’Golo? Yeah, we can, and we’ve proved it already. But it’s easier with him, and it’s easier if he does not lack for too many weeks.

“We built him up after his last injury, now we had an accident. This can happen, this is not related to age or to overload, this is simply an accident during a match and it happened against Juventus. Of course, we miss him a lot.”

Does Saul come back into your thinking with all the injuries in midfield?

“He’s one of the guys that needs rhythm and minutes. He is not the only guy. He is always in our thinking and thoughts. We always reflect on every single training session, performance and form. So is one of the guys we think about.

“He struggled a bit with the intensity but he was unlucky because we played against Southampton, Aston Villa and Watford and all three, when we looked at the data, were high intensity even in terms of Premier League games. They were above the average.

“That did not suit his qualities and we try to encourage him because he grows into Chelsea more and more. We will not stop encouraging him and we will try to bring out his best to help us and help the team. There is a high possibility we will do this tomorrow and we will help him.”

Do you feel your side are struggling against opponents that press high?

“I think we have a lot of solutions for it. I agree with the Watford game but not so much with the West Ham game because I felt us more control and more in the opponent’s half.

“With the Watford game, I totally agree. We had a lot of changes in the Watford game and there was a mix of players who’d never played with each other. We lacked a bit of rhythm, position and speed in our decision-making because we were not used to playing with each other.

“In general, we have to constantly be at our highest level. Teams try to press us high and we’ve had many games where teams have tried and we’ve found good solutions. The mistakes against Watford and West Ham are in high-pressing moments but when you see Jorginho give the ball away like this, I think that’s not a structural or behaviour problem. It’s a technical problem.

“This can be because of mental and physical fatigue. If you see now that Jorginho is, for example, out of tomorrow’s game with back pain, then you know he played with back pain against West Ham and played because we had been without Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante for a long time.

“Sometimes you overload players, over-play players. With Jorgi, who came the Euros and Champions League, with no pre-season, we knew that in some weeks he will face a dip of freshness and form. At this moment when it happens, it’s natural to use other midfielders, but they are out because of injury.

“This is where our problems refer to but still we can do better and improve in the details and in every aspect of the game.”

When do you expect to have Mateo Kovacic back in training?

“We have bad news because Mateo was in training yesterday with a big smile and it was pure pleasure to have him back. But he tested positive today before the warm-up so he is isolating and out for several days which is a huge setback for him and all of us.”

Are you concerned about the spread of Covid as Spurs have had an outbreak?

“I was aware that this can happen. Me personally, I am not happy that it is happening as a manager and person. But this is the reality at the moment and we have to be ready to adapt to secure people’s health. We have to do the best thing possible to avoid transmission.”


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