Chelsea’s preparation for tonight’s Champions League quarter-final first leg against Porto has been far from ideal.
The Blues were stunned at the weekend against West Bromwich Albion, losing 5-2 at Stamford Bridge. A result which brought to an end the unbeaten run under Thomas Tuchel.
A little under 24 hours after that humiliation, Antonio Rudiger and Kepa Arrizabalaga came to blows during training. Naturally, the incident was soon reported by the press and headlines were created at home and abroad.
Tuchel was also asked about the scrap ahead of tonight’s game. He said: “It was serious. Sometimes you have little, little situations when you look away and let them sort things out. This was not the case.
“We needed to interfere in this situation so it was serious. How the guys handled the situation was impressive and showed a lot of character. But the situation was serious.”
Tuchel added the two players later apologised and he considers the incident closed. So now it’s time to focus on the football.
Porto will not be easy opponents for Chelsea. Sure, they were the club the majority of Blues fans wanted their side face in the last eight but the fact they eliminated Juventus in the previous round of the competition is proof the Portuguese giants can’t be taken lightly.
Tuchel will not find it easy to pick his side, although there are a few players almost certain to start this evening.
The first is Edouard Mendy. The Senegal international is Chelsea’s number one goalkeeper and the fact he was beaten five times by West Brom on Saturday will not change that.
On the right side of the back three will be Cesar Azpilicueta. On the left will be Rudiger, with Tuchel confirming yesterday the German is set to start despite his bust-up with Kepa.
Who takes up the central role is not an easy choice for Tuchel. Thiago Silva returned from his thigh injury against the Baggies but was sent off after just 30 minutes. That is the only football he has played in two months.
In the Brazilian’s absence, Andreas Christensen has been almost flawless. And it’s for that reason the Dane should start in Seville.
At right wing-back is expected to be Reece James, although Callum Hudson-Odoi is in contention. On the opposite flank, Ben Chilwell should get the nod having been rested at the weekend.
N’Golo Kante has travelled with the squad but isn’t 100% fit so, with Billy Gilmour left at home, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic should be in midfield.
Ahead of them will be Mason Mount and almost certainly Timo Werner despite his lack of goals.
There are several options for Tuchel to turn to when it comes to who leads his attack, but given Tuchel referenced Olivier Giroud’s previous outing in Seville, when he struck four times, in his pre-match press conference, you suspect the Frenchman will be given a start.
Predicted Chelsea side to face Porto (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Chilwell; Mount, Giroud, Werner