It’s less than 72 hours since Chelsea’s players celebrated joyously on the Stamford Bridge pitch having defeated Real Madrid to reach the Champions League final. Yet the Blues are back in action today and they face a difficult challenge: stopping Manchester City from winning the Premier League title.
The game at the Etihad will be another tough test for Thomas Tuchel and his squad, one they have had less than two full days to prepare for.
Chelsea‘s players were back in at Cobham on Thursday morning. Those who started against Real the previous evening undertook a recovery session. The other first-team players trained as normal. There was a full session held yesterday after which the group flew to Manchester.
It’s hardly ideal preparation for facing Pep Guardiola’s side. And that’s why Tuchel has already admitted he will make changes to his starting XI today.
“We have one day less to recover and we have an away game,” the German explained at his pre-match press conference.
“One day less is quite the key factor in these times of the season so I can imagine that we maybe need fresh legs and minds tomorrow. Some hungry guys who deserve to show together that they have a chance in a big fixture.
“Tomorrow, if there will be new stuff tactically. I don’t know. I haven’t decided yet. I have to look at everybody and see who is available and who is a bit overloaded. There is a high possibility that we will see some changes.”
Chelsea’s squad is deep enough that Tuchel can rotate his side and there not be a drop-off in quality. And here are four players who are expected to start at the Etihad.
The French defender has been one of the biggest casualties of Tuchel’s appointment, going from regular starter under Frank Lampard to Chelsea’s fifth-choice centre-back.
Yet given Cesar Azpilicueta and Thiago Silva have played in three consecutive games, Zouma may be brought into the defence.
If that is the case, the 26-year-old should slot into the middle of the back three with Andreas Christensen on the right and Antonio Rudiger on the left.
The 21-year-old has been a regular in the side under both Lampard and Tuchel this season but he didn’t start in either of the games against Real Madrid with the experience of Azpilicueta preferred at right wing-back.
James has vastly improved the defensive side of his game this term and that was evident in the FA Cup semi-final against Man City, in which he largely kept Raheem Sterling and later Phil Foden quiet.
The England international only played the final couple of minutes of the victory over Madrid on Wednesday so will be fresh for this evening’s clash.
The 20-year-old was thrown straight into the starting XI after Tuchel’s appointment, although it was in the unfamiliar role of right wing-back.
Yet as Tuchel’s tenure has progressed, Hudson-Odoi’s game time has regressed – his last outing for the Blues came against Brighton on April 20.
However, with Tuchel expected to freshen up his frontline this evening, it may be a good opportunity to give Hudson-Odoi an opportunity in the attacking three. His pace could be a useful weapon against the high Man City defensive line.
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There’s little doubt the American star was unfortunate not to start in midweek. Pulisic struck the all-important away goal in the first leg against Real Madrid and appeared to be rested last week against Fulham for the return fixture.
The 22-year-old did feature in the final 23 minutes of the clash at Stamford Bridge and played a pivotal role; it was his cross which Mason Mount turned home late on to guarantee Chelsea’s spot in the Champions League final.
Pulisic has rediscovered his best form in recent weeks and, given he will be fresher than Timo Werner, will be hopeful of starting on the left of the Blues attack.