Thomas Tuchel doesn’t expect Chelsea to have it easy against Leeds United this evening. No great surprise considering Jesse Marsch’s side are fighting hard to keep their place in the Premier League. So the Blues will have to be ready to produce an assured performance, something they’ve struggled to do in recent weeks.
“This match is like do or die [for Leeds],” Tuchel said during his pre-match press conference. “It’s like a cup match for them. The atmosphere will be like this. I am looking forward to it actually. I have played there once but without spectators. It will be a big fight. The atmosphere and the surrounding will tell you instantly what is going on and we will feel it straight away. We need to step up.”
Chelsea travel to Elland Road off the back of a disappointing 2-2 draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday. That result means Tuchel’s side has won only two of their last seven Premier League matches. It’s why Champions League football for next season has yet to be secured.
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“Every match tells us a different story,” explained Tuchel yesterday. “That’s why it is a bit hard to put the focus on one thing. It is a bit up and down lately which we don’t like. We are on it on different things. For tomorrow we need to be spot on from first to last minute.”
Tuchel will not have a full squad from which to select his side. Ben Chilwell (knee) is not expected to return this season while Callum Hudson-Odoi (achilles) hasn’t featured in a Premier League game since January. N’Golo Kante and Jorginho are also both doubts after missing the weekend draw with Wolves.
The Chelsea head coach also has to consider whether to rest players ahead of the FA Cup final. The Blues take on Liverpool at Wembley on Saturday and Jurgen Klopp’s side will have had 24 more hours to prepare for the game having faced Aston Villa last night.
Rotation isn’t required in goal with Edouard Mendy set to start once again – it will be intriguing as to whether the Senegal international also starts against Liverpool with Kepa Arrizabalaga viewed as the domestic cup goalkeeper for much of the campaign.
Tuchel is likely to stick with a back three, but there may be a change or two within that. Cesar Azpilicueta has struggled for form in recent weeks and could be replaced by Andreas Christensen on the right of the back three. Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger would then take up their usual positions.
Reece James is the obvious candidate to start at right wing-back and on the opposite flank should be Marcos Alonso. The Spaniard engaged in a heated disagreement with Tuchel against Wolves but the Chelsea head coach has insisted the incident is behind them. “Things are solved. That happens,” he said.
There is no need to take risks on Kante and Jorginho’s fitness so the midfield duo should be Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mateo Kovacic. Mason Mount was rested at the weekend and should return to the frontline and Hakim Ziyech will be hoping for an opportunity to impress.
And Tuchel has all but confirmed Romelu Lukaku will lead the Chelsea attack after his brace against Wolves at the weekend. Speaking ahead of the game, the German said: “He has been scoring goals since he was six years old. It is in his body and this is what I tell him all the time: trust your body, trust your brain, trust your instincts.
“He knows how to do it, he will never forget how to score, but he needs a spark and hopefully this was it and he can continue. It is always a good moment to have you strike in confidence and in shape.”
Predicted Chelsea side: Mendy; Chalobah, Silva, Rudiger; James, Loftus-Cheek, Kovacic, Alonso; Ziyech, Lukaku, Mount
Source by Football London