Chelsea might be missing three players: For Saturday’s trip to Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium, Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has confirmed one absentee and two worries.
With just a five-point advantage over fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur and fifth-placed Arsenal, Tuchel will almost certainly have to pitch his strongest eleven in order to seal the win, despite the approaching second-leg meeting in Madrid.
Tuchel expressed his optimism that the injured list will not be extended after two players suffered minor injuries.
“Callum Hudson-Odoi is still out,” the German said about the latest injury news ahead of the trip to Southampton.
“We hope to have them in training [today] but we need tests and confirmation from the training at 3:00 pm if they are available tomorrow.
“We’re a bit in doubt with Romelu [Lukaku] and Hakim Ziyech. They were not in training yesterday due to little problems.
“[It] doesn’t look so good at the moment. It’s not a matter of days but weeks,” he added about Hudson-Odoi’s Achilles injury.
“It is [a setback]. He started and had an assist in the Club World Cup final.
“He’s crucial on the left side, sometimes as a wing-back and most of the time as a winger.
“He was growing and [the injury] suddenly stopped his season. Not his fault, of course, but it’s still upset.”
Since the FA Cup win against Luton Town in early March, the 21-year-old has been out.
Hudson-Odoi’s absence is a major blow, as Tuchel pointed out, especially considering Chelsea’s lack of left wing-back alternatives owing to Ben Chilwell’s long-term injury.
Details of Tuchel’s press conference
On Callum Hudson-Odoi injury:
“Doesn’t look so good at the moment. It’s not a matter of days at the moment, it’s a matter of weeks. It’s a setback. He started in the Club World Cup final, we were just talking about it. He had an assist in the final, he was crucial on the left side, sometimes as a wingback but most of the time as a winger. It was one of the seasons he has had the most playtime I would say and was growing into it. Suddenly it stopped his season, not his fault but it’s upset.”
On team news:
“Callum Hudson-Odoi is still out. We are a bit in doubt with Romelu and Hakim Ziyech. They were not in training due to little problems yesterday. We need a test to see if they are in training at three o’clock and available for tomorrow.”
On back-to-back defeats:
“We are aware of it and we don’t like it. I don’t know if we are concerned but it is very untypical for us, we had a look into it and talked to the team about it. We constantly try to figure out how we can improve. We need to stop this kind of direction and development as soon as possible.
The best possibility is tomorrow. It is very not like us to defend like this and concede so many goals. That’s why we didn’t see it coming because it was not the case before the national break. These two matches within five days are very untypical and not easy to deal with because it does not fit a pattern.”
On deadline for bidders being extended:
“I didn’t know this! Is it? It is the process. I am sure the people who take care of the process, our board and Government, and the other side, the people who make the bid, take care and are aware of the urgency and take care of it as fast as possible. It is none of my business actually, it’s not an upset. I am not involved heavily in the daily process of that. No, it’s not a new concern. The situation is in general the situation. We know about it, we can handle it.”
On schedule affecting results:
“The schedule does not mean you concede seven goals. It is challenging, very challenging because we played in a lot of competitions, extra competition with the World Cup. We played in every competition until the end.
I think we are, at the moment with Liverpool, far ahead in-game minutes and this is a big challenge because in this period, in 2022, we had a lot of extra times we played. This adds up to maybe another two matches. If you just add up the extra time in these matches, yeah.
When you face teams like Brentford, now Southampton, and very soon also Crystal Palace, Arsenal – who are not on international duty, not involved in so many games, it’s a big challenge. It’s nothing new. On one hand, it’s a challenge and it has an impact but it is nothing to talk about, to look for excuses.
That’s the way it is when you work and play for Chelsea, you need to overcome these obstacles and don’t get comfortable in accepting it’s hard. We need to embrace it and love that it is hard. That’s how it is.”
On ownership uncertainty affecting players:
“That would be a big surprise. We proved it is not like this. Why should it be different now? Nothing has changed for us in our lives. Nothing has changed here in Cobham, the training ground and preparation of the games. No reason why it should have an effect. I don’t look for any excuse or reason in these circumstances.”
On team meeting:
“It was not a discussion meeting yesterday… It was more I gave my point of view. This is sometimes necessary. We take the players’ views very seriously and often into account but over the last two games, we thought it is necessary to give our point of view. Behind closed doors, in an atmosphere where everybody can take criticism. I feel involved in a development like this. We don’t point fingers and look for people that are guilty. We are in this together.
We needed to point out some points in our game where we are unhappy and could have defended better. It was about the game, it was about offensive principles in our game – what we wanted to do and lacked doing. Unfortunately, and a bit surprised we lacked structure in the last game. Normally our big strength is that you clearly see what we try to do and play.
That was not the case. It’s a big problem. Then you lacked the rhythm, and repetitions of our attacks, we lacked discipline in attacking and positional discipline. It was a big disadvantage on counter-pressing because we were not in the places where we were supposed to be.
This gives a big disadvantage in counter-pressing. We lacked intensity and investment. That was more or less what we saw. We figured it out in detail because it’s not about general criticism, it’s about details about situations. It is about trusting in the players. I love the players, the group, I love to be involved. We can do better together.”
On player fitness and Romelu Lukaku:
“I think it’s not only for Romelu who is lacking at the very moment a bit of shape. After the international break, I had the feeling that we all lacked sharpness and shape. It’s a lack of form individually and it affects the group of course. It’s a bit sad, Romelu had one good chance and one very big chance. Nothing helps more than goals. It would have been a huge boost.
Another thing is to train well and take training seriously and take care about the process, which he really did in the last days. He missed yesterday. Hopefully, he comes back today and feels good with no pain to be available for tomorrow, and then we will see.”
On whether the form is just a ‘blip’:
“Of course, a lot of reasons to think so. It is very untypical. There are a lot of reasons to lead to a thing like this. It is bad timing. It came out of nothing, literally out of nothing because nobody was there. Then we start losing matches and conceding goals but it’s challenging and it’s for us to find solutions and not complain too much, worry too much. We need to refocus and trust in our strengths and keep our beliefs. It is the moment to stick together and digest it. It took a while because it was two games, not only one loss. From today on we allow ourselves to focus on Southampton.”
On Chelsea finishing in the top four:
“Absolutely confident but never as a given. I never thought of this as a given because this is the most demanding league in the world. We know where we come from. We know how we struggled through the season and what can make us struggle. I feel in the team that there is nothing bad. We can play at a very high level if we reach our top level. We do this very consecutive and repetitive, very often. Very good.
This is our job, what we push for. If we don’t reach it we can lose to any team of any quality. Unfortunately, we proved it within five days. This is us. It’s nothing bad, just a reminder that this is us. We should not feel ashamed and feel bad to fight for place number three.
There is no disappointment. At the moment we are number three, it is a tough competition until the very last day. Do I feel confident? Yes. I have trust from the players, from the Club. I trust in myself, in my work, and in my staff. Do we feel that this is a given? No, absolutely not. It never felt like this.”
On Southampton being the ‘perfect opponent’:
“*laughs* If you turn it around like this! They will not make us fall asleep, that is clear. Either they play a 4-4-2 with a heavy, high pressing line of six players which they did in the first match of the season, which they like to play and is their usual shape. In the second game against us in the cup they played a back five which led to a man mark over the whole pitch, a very demanding and intense game. We had some looks and watched some things about the two matches.
Both matches were of a high level of quality, very intense and fluid from both sides. Very active. It is quite a challenge. The schedule is the schedule. We come from another game. It is demanding. Maybe it is good. There is no other way than accepting this physicality, otherwise, we will be under the wheels.”
On N’Golo Kante:
“I can honestly not answer the question (whether football is catching up to him). Can be a debate for ongoing debate that nobody will know if it is like this. One thing is very clear, N’Golo is a key player with outstanding qualities and unique qualities. For other teams, maybe it is some strikers or central defenders. For us, it is N’Golo, a unique player who can give something to the team that nobody else can. He struggles this season with consistency due to injuries, due to illness.
This is also a reason for our bit of inconsistency of course. We missed him for too many matches if you look at the minutes he is available he can play. At the moment he is fasting due to his religion, and his belief. Maybe another reason. He is not doing it for the first time but if you don’t eat during the day for many days it can have an effect.
He is used to it but yeah, maybe it is also part of the explanation why we had the feeling he is not on his highest level if you compare how much of an influence he was in the last campaign against Real Madrid. This is also nothing to be ashamed of or feel sorry for. This is a key player with unique qualities. We try to push him, try to help him because we know what we have when he is on the pitch.”
One reason for poor form:
“Lack of confidence would be very surprising because there was no need for a lack of confidence. It was a very untypical first match to lose (vs Brentford) because we were 1-0 up and did not allow much up until then. The goals were very different from what we conceded, they were not a pattern. We defended the last matches in a back four, both matches. Not to be fancy but not to be pinned with too many people in the defence against not enough strikers.
Anything can have an influence on that. I don’t have this one answer. Some of the goals are also about individual behaviour, about behaviour in little groups – two or three players and how we behave. It is also about determination and investment defensively, how many sprints we are doing, how much do we invest defensively and do we have the determination and challenges to take care of ‘I don’t need help to win these challenges’ or ‘am I protected by the structure?’.
It is good if nothing happens and you are protected but sometimes it gives you the feeling of ‘oh okay if I don’t win it here then it will be a goal’. Maybe we are lacking this mentality in the last matches. That it is really, every little challenge matters. We need higher determination and investment in terms of high intensity runs against the ball. This is where we can improve.”
On Edouard Mendy form:
“Yeah. He needs to. Life as a goalkeeper on a high level. The goalkeeper is a very special position in football in general. Once you play at this high level you are in the spotlight. When you are so successful like Edou in the last couple of months, win so many trophies and have so many successful games like him as you are more in the spotlight. He was never fully free of mistakes, also not last season. We helped him better. Maybe sometimes we were luckier.
Of course, he can solve this situation much, much better (against Real Madrid) and he knows it. In any match, it is bad timing to do a mistake like this but in a quarter-final, an occasion like this against Real Madrid is one of the worst moments you can do it. It is so obvious. I hope it does not affect his self-confidence too much.
This is what goalkeeping is also about, to accept mistakes and live with his mistakes and go back and help your team with performance, focus, re-focus, stay calm, and stay confident. This is normally what goalkeepers are, what You are made of. Now he can prove he is a true champion.”
On Romelu Lukaku injury:
“He has achilles pain too. It is just painful, not a major injury, just painful.”
On honest meetings being a turning point for Chelsea:
“There are different types of reactions. Sometimes you are disappointed. Sometimes you know we had a defeat against Liverpool to take, an obvious example – I was disappointed about the result but with performance, we were absolutely happy and delighted how we played and what a match it was.
The feeling the next day was very different than after Brentford and very different than after Real Madrid. I felt like we gave a huge opportunity away. It is not normal to play quarter-finals in Champions League. It was a huge night and a huge opponent and we were not at our best level.
That’s why we were not only disappointed but also angry. For me, it is best to express it like it is and don’t hide it. It is best to sleep over it. I had to face you after the match and was not so good at hiding my emotions because I felt like I said, we were so under our own level that it was one of the worst moments to do so. I was disappointed because I know how much better we can play.
I knew, I felt how untypical these kinds of mistakes and performances were for us. That led to my reaction. I don’t know if it’s a turning point. You need to take care of the process and right now yesterday it was, to be honest with the team, explain your reactions and why it is like this.
It is necessary for the players to see why it is like it and can handle it if the manager is sometimes angry. I think I had some reasons, I presented my reasons. From there on we go. Nobody will lack my support from now on, lack my love and appreciation as a group and as players. I love to be involved. Sometimes you have to handle this with any team in the world. This isn’t amateur football or youth football. In our group, it isn’t the same.”