Chelsea have come through their pre-season campaign pretty much unscathed in terms of players picking up injuries and niggles ahead of the new campaign.
As Thomas Tuchel said after the 2-2 friendly draw with Spurs last week, the Blues had 42 players in the Cobham complex for training, such is the bloated size of the squad the German head coach has had to work with.
As far as we know, aside from a couple of Covid-19 scares across the past few weeks, the Blues look set to head to Belfast for the Super Cup clash with Villarreal in good health, as outlined in the squad list submitted to UEFA last week.
There are some notable absentees on there such as Trevoh Chalobah, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ross Barkley, Danny Drinkwater and Davide Zappacosta but that can be added to by Tuesday.
One of those could well be Romelu Lukaku, who the Blues reached an agreement with Inter Milan to sign over the weekend for a fee that could be as much as £98million. Tuchel wanted a move sorted before the start of the season and he’s got his wish.
Whether Lukaku makes his move in time, perhaps to be included in the Super Cup squad, we will wait and see.
Chelsea’s stars who returned the latest of all from their summer exertions with their country have only played in a behind-closed-doors game at the weekend, which was an intra-squad game so their participation in Belfast could be limited.
Thiago Silva, Jorginho, Emerson, Mason Mount, Ben Chilwell and Reece James all got a run out, as did Cesar Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen.
The announcement of a friendly clash with Weymouth on August 15 adds further intrigue as to who could feature the day before against Crystal Palace for the Premier League opener at Stamford Bridge.
Football.London understands that game will mainly feature players who didn’t make the cut for the matchday 18 against Palace to keep them ticking over, perhaps ahead of potential exits further down the road depending on who plays.
But with a near fully-fit squad to choose from for the Palace game, it leaves Tuchel with a selection headache, especially when the deal for Lukaku is completed.
The Belgian striker has been in pre-season training with Inter this summer so won’t be arriving at Cobham completely cold when his move is completed. Tuchel has persisted with the front three so far this summer, with Hakim Ziyech impressing.
German duo Kai Havertz and Timo Werner should be fully ready to play 90 minutes, as will Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi who have full pre-season’s behind them.
In defence, Tuchel will have a call to make with his left wing-back slot with Marcos Alonso having had a lot more football than Ben Chilwell. At centre back, the same applies for Thiago Silva, Azpilicueta and Christensen who haven’t got a lot of mileage this summer.
Antonio Rudiger and Kurt Zouma have, but that still leaves a question over the third centre half, with Trevoh Chalobah set to be loaned out once again despite having a strong pre-season.
The Blues are still tracking Jules Kounde of Sevilla but it would be a surprise if that move is completed before the start of the new season and even then, the Frenchman won’t be thrown in at the deep end.
In midfield, Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante have been back in pre-season for three weeks so should be fine for the Palace game provided they get through the Super Cup without picking up a problem. Jorginho meanwhile has only had his intra-squad run-out so far.
All in all, Tuchel has plenty of selection dilemmas that extend a lot further than when he will include Lukaku in his starting eleven.
The German has described this summer as “unique” and with a tough run of games to start the campaign after the Palace clash, which isn’t a formality in any sense either, protecting his players is of the utmost priority over the coming six days.
Source by Football London