The Chelsea star no one is talking about who can be Thomas Tuchel’s Champions League hero

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When Thomas Tuchel sat down earlier this week to draw up his strategy for bringing the Champions League trophy back to Chelsea, it’s unlikely to have taken the German too long to pick his starting XI for the game.

Tuchel has regularly rotated his side since taking charge at Stamford Bridge at the end of January. That, in part, was down to the relentless fixture schedule the Blues embarked on but it was also because of the depth of quality within the Chelsea squad.

Players could be swapped in and out without there being a noticeable drop-off in performance. And results remained largely positive. Yet when the key games arrived, Tuchel went with largely the same group of players.

Edouard Mendy would start in goal. The back three would consist of Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger. Reece James would be at right wing-back, Ben Chilwell on the opposite flank.

N’Golo Kante would be in midfield and partnered by Jorginho. Ahead of that duo was Mason Mount and Timo Werner, who operated either through the middle or in the position he described as a ‘left ten’.

The only real position up for debate was always who was deployed as the third attacker. At times it was Kai Havertz. Christian Pulisic, meanwhile, had a sustained run in the side in April. There were also appearances in the forward line for Callum Hudson-Odoi and Hakim Ziyech.

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The latter has endured a mixed first campaign at Stamford Bridge. When Chelsea announced a deal for Ziyech in February 2020, there was a great deal of excitement among the fanbase that the Blues had managed to secure the services of the man Ajax fans have nicknamed ‘The Wizard’.

Ziyech didn’t arrive at Chelsea until the summer and, unfortunately, he suffered a knee injury in a pre-season friendly with Brighton and Hove Albion that delayed his debut – he didn’t make his first outing for the Blues until mid-October.

The 28-year-old made up for lost time. He produced a number of impressive displays and quickly became the creative fulcrum of Frank Lampard’s side. Injury struck again, though, at the start of December and Ziyech missed a month of football.

Chelsea were in freefall under Lampard on Ziyech’s return, which was rushed. He wasn’t able to rediscover his best form in the final weeks of the club legend’s tenure and once Thomas Tuchel arrived, the Morocco international was rarely in the starting XI.

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Tuchel has overseen 29 matches as Chelsea head coach and of those, Ziyech has only started ten. That doesn’t exactly suggest the Moroccon would be included in the starting XI for the biggest game of the season.

However, Tuchel has often dropped Ziyech into his side for big games. He started the second leg of the Round of 16 tie against Atletico Madrid, the FA Cup semi-final against Man City, the league game against Pep Guardiola’s side at the Etihad Stadium, and the FA Cup final.

Ziyech found the net in three of those matches and, more importantly, notched in both games against the team Chelsea must overcome in the Champions League final tomorrow evening. And that may just come into Tuchel’s thinking when the Blues head coach picks his side for tomorrow’s clash in Porto.

It’s not been an easy first campaign for Ziyech at Chelsea yet he is a man capable of producing something from nothing, a player who can conjure the spectacular when needed. Tuchel may just decide that on the biggest stage, The Wizard can produce his greatest trick.

Source by Football London

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