Thomas Tuchel has confirmed that Christian Pulisic is an injury doubt, ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Southampton.
The Blues travel down to St. Mary’s on Saturday, eager to make it six consecutive wins in all competitions. Their 2-0 win over Newcastle at the start of the week saw them return to the top four, and they now know that victory on the south coast could move them closer to the top two.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference on Friday, Tuchel gave an injury update on who would be unavailable, including Pulisic. He said, “We have some issues with Christian Pulisic’s calf. Nothing big, it just feels tight, and it’s in a bit of a risk zone yesterday, so there’s a big question mark for Christian.”
On the rest of his squad, Tuchel added, “We’re very happy that Tammy [Abraham] is very good; if things go well, he’s in the squad. Thiago [Silva] will be out for the game, he’s not ready. Kai Havertz is back in training and can join us for Southampton.”
Pulisic looks unlikely to feature against Southampton, with critical games against Atlético Madrid and Manchester United next week. The American has missed the last two league games for Chelsea, as he awaits his first goal since December.
While Pulisic’s reunion with Tuchel was an encouraging sight, he is yet to truly impress under his former Borussia Dortmund colleague. He has recorded just one assist in three appearances in the Tuchel era, but the manager still has full faith in the 22-year-old.
Tuchel said, “Chelsea bought Christian for a reason, for his quality, for his potential, so it’s our job to bring out the best in him. He proved that he has the level to be a regular Chelsea player, to have a big impact at this club. It’s a challenge to hold this level, to improve, to maintain the level and to keep improving.”
Expanding on Pulisic’s condition, he went on to say, “We are not concerned. We have little issues in the calf, he stopped training yesterday before it became an injury. I would not say it’s an injury, at the moment it’s risk management. That relies on his history of having injuries, so we do not want to enter in the same cycle.”
Monday’s clash against Newcastle saw the return of Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal, making his first league appearance in four months. The Spaniard managed to keep his second straight clean sheet in the 2-0 win, and only his third in what has been a challenging season.
Speaking about Arrizabalaga, Tuchel said, “I encouraged him to see it as another opportunity, to take it as a fresh start, and this is what he did. He earned the right to play another game. He had two clean sheets, and that’s the best a goalkeeper can ask for.
“Kepa had two good matches, two clean sheets. This is the best he can have for his confidence, but this is also what we expect of him.”
Arrizabalaga has made eight appearances this season, returning to the lineup with a new lease of life following Frank Lampard’s sacking. Although Édouard Mendy remains Chelsea’s first-choice goalkeeper, it is a huge boost for Kepa, whose future at the club was in real jeopardy.
On the goalkeepers, Tuchel explained, “There’s a strong bond within the goalkeepers, even if they are competitors to each other, but they have to be a team within the team. It’s important for us that the group of goalkeepers are strong, this is what I feel from all three. We need all of them to be ready, because games are coming now at the highest level.”
Chelsea have been excellent under Tuchel so far, remaining unbeaten in six games and going strong across the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup. They will be fighting across all three fronts within the next month, with ties against Atlético and Sheffield United fast approaching.
Unable to bring in new players due to his sudden arrival at Stamford Bridge, Tuchel has had to work with the players he had, many of whom were at Chelsea because of Lampard. However, the German has been extremely impressed with his squad so far, full of praise for the character and mentality he has seen in his first few weeks.
He said, “I have experienced incredible work ethic from the players. They are hungry, they are eager to improve, to compete as a team. I feel them all together as a group, we can totally rely on them to play our principles in a game. It’s a very good level from where we want to improve, because the challenge is to improve every day.”
Tuchel concluded by saying, “There is no reason not to trust them. They delivered from the first minute that we were here. I feel totally included in that process, and I feel a very strong bond between the players. It is a pleasure to be here, to work with the guys.”
Chelsea will look to maintain their place in the top four on Saturday, knowing that a win against Southampton could close the gap between the teams above them. Manchester United and Leicester City, who sit second and third respectively, are both on 46 points, meaning that the Blues can close the gap to just one point if results go their way.
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