Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Chelsea without Lukaku, Werner and Kovacic until mid-November

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 29 Oct 2021

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Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner will not return for Chelsea before the November international break, Thomas Tuchel revealed ahead of Saturday’s trip to Newcastle United.

Neither Lukaku nor Werner have featured for the Blues since their 4-0 Champions League win over Malmo on October 20 due to respective ankle and hamstring injuries.

The pair were initially ruled out of matches against Norwich City and Southampton, both of which Chelsea won – albeit only on penalties against Saints.

But Tuchel will again be without the forwards at Newcastle and also for meetings with Malmo and Burnley prior to the pause in club action.

Lukaku and Werner are now targeting a potentially pivotal stretch when the season resumes, as Chelsea face Leicester City, Juventus and Manchester United in succession.

“Timo and Romelu are still out because of their injuries,” Tuchel told a pre-match news conference. “Christian Pulisic did join the last two training sessions, but it’s still too early, given the time that he missed.”

He added: “I’m not a friend of deadlines and putting pressure on expectations, but I can tell you that it’s realistic that both of them, Timo and Romelu, have a new target, and that target is after the international break. That is what we aim for and they aim for.

“With Christian Pulisic, we are looking at the Burnley match.”

Tuchel otherwise provided largely positive news on the injury front, although he later revealed Mateo Kovacic had suffered a hamstring injury in training and was also likely to be missing for close to a month.

“Everybody else is available,” Tuchel said. “Azpi [Cesar Azpilicueta] is back on the pitch, Ruben [Loftus-Cheek] is back on the pitch, N’G [N’Golo Kante] is back on the pitch. They are with the team tomorrow and ready to play.”

The coach is hopeful the absence of the injured players will not be too keenly felt.

Chelsea have already had 14 different goalscorers in the Premier League this season, the earliest in a campaign any team have ever had as many players score in the competition (excluding own goals).

“We have to compensate the loss of Romelu and Timo,” Tuchel said. “We did score before with different goalscorers, but now it’s even more necessary.”

Chelsea have perhaps been fortunate in that sense, so far outperforming their expected goals (xG) total of 15.0 in scoring 23 goals – the biggest disparity in the division.

Tuchel’s men also have the biggest difference between xG against (10.7) and goals conceded (three).

“Let’s be honest: we’re relying a little bit too much on the performances of our goalkeepers this season,” said Tuchel, with Edouard Mendy preventing 3.2 goals according to expected goals on target data, by far the best performance in the league.

“Still, we have a certain stability, and we want a certain stability mentally to overcome difficult situations in games. We believe we can overcome them.”

That belief might be put to the test by Newcastle, who have lost five of their past six Premier League games against Chelsea but are buoyed by a lucrative takeover that has brought the St James’ Park crowd back on side.

“Things have changed for them, obviously, maybe changed within the dressing room, the spirit within the club, the belief of the city, the belief of the supporters with what’s coming,” Tuchel said. “Maybe that affects the atmosphere in the stadium for them and of course for us.

“But we experience right now that there is a huge value to play against us, and we have come out of these matches as so-called favourites. I liked a lot how we approached these matches with intensity and effort.”

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