Chelsea is headed down the home stretch this season and looking to escape the most difficult run of the year without a loss. The Blues are unbeaten thus far under Thomas Tuchel, but they aren’t in the clear yet. The campaign’s biggest match to date, a second leg against Atletico Madrid is on the horizon, Leeds United is up first though. The Blues are going to be battling a tricky side at Elland Road, one who contributed to Frank Lampard’s team’s downfall earlier in the season. The rivalry is renewed once again with a massive three points on the line for the visitors.
Despite the line-up release still being about 17 hours away, there are some certainties to expect on Saturday morning. Mason Mount and Jorginho are both almost guaranteed to start given their suspensions in the upcoming Champions League match. The Blues also have a pair of players who will be unavailable for the upcoming bout. Tuchel announced on Friday that both Thiago Silva and Tammy Abraham will be out of the trip to Leeds with knocks.
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Silva has yet to play since suffering a muscle injury in the first half of the win against Tottenham. The centerback was captured by cameras warming up in case Kurt Zouma had to come off against Everton though. As we know by now, the Frenchman was fine and Silva remained an unused substitute. However, he suffered a setback in training a few days ago and will stay sidelined.
What’s going on with Abraham in recent weeks though?
Abraham remains out with an ankle issue he suffered around six weeks ago from a tackle against Burnley. The English striker has dominated headlines in recent weeks due to his exclusions from the matchday squad. Confusion has stemmed from comments made by the manager, but it seems pretty clear now that the Blues’ leading scorer is simply not fit enough to make the team at the moment. Abraham has continued to train in recent weeks; sometimes getting through without issues, sometimes having to come off early. Tuchel made note of Abraham not looking 100 percent fit, yet noticed the 23-year-old is continuing to give it his all.
Luckily for the gaffer, the rest of his team is available for selection on Saturday. This means those who have replaced the aforementioned individuals during their time on the sidelines are able to fill in at Elland Road.
Andreas Christensen has gone from zero to hero in Silva’s absence. He put in a few good shifts at the beginning of the season, but failed to get many minutes under his belt. The Brazilian’s injury forced Tuchel’s hand, and saved Christensen’s Chelsea career. He’s been immense and hardly put a foot wrong, even raising questions about whether or not Silva should be reintroduced into the starting XI.
There are a number of individuals who could slot in for Abraham during his absence. Most recently, it was Kai Havertz’s turn to lead the line. The wunderkind excelled in this position against Everton, playing a crucial part in both of the Blues’ goals and having a third questionably disallowed. Timo Werner will also get shouts to start against Marcelo Bielsa’s pacey side. He’s not gotten off to the best statistical start, it’s hard to argue his impact though. This is exactly the type of game Werner thrives in, as well. The last and least likely option to get a run out is Olivier Giroud. Simply put, Giroud’s game is too slow for a contest that’ll surely be wide open. It plays to none of his strengths and although the French veteran deserves some minutes, this game has little need for him.
Tuchel has also hinted at a possible Pulisic start, which would be the No. 10’s first league start under the German manager. Pulisic has struggled with fitness for much of the season, and simply not looked himself when healthy, but his chance is coming. The Blues will need all hands on deck in order to survive a gruesome 90 minutes against Leeds. The intensity is kicked up a notch when considering Chelsea has all to play for next week against Atletico.
Who would you like to see get the nod for the Blues? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!