Chelsea has gotten off to a scorching start this season. The Blues are currently sitting atop the Premier League, second in Group H of the Champions League and they’re into the quarterfinals of the Carabao Cup. They’ve also already got a European trophy to their name in the form of the Super Cup. The most impressive part of the near-flawless beginning of the season has been the injuries that Chelsea has had to manage around early on.
A number of the Blues’ key players have missed matches already due to one injury or another. This includes the likes of N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Romelu Lukaku, Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic, Timo Werner and others. Thomas Tuchel and Co. have navigated the fixture list with perfection in their absences regardless. Nevertheless, as those players start to regain match fitness again, they cannot be thrown into the mix immediately and expected to start right away—this is especially true of this weekend’s fixture at Leicester City.
Chelsea shouldn’t rush certain players back and start them simply because the Blues need them to beat Leicester City on Saturday
Thomas Tuchel confirmed in his pre-Foxes press conference that Lukaku would miss out on the clash. The Belgian international just began running again over the international break, so it was always going to be a bit too soon for the club’s record signing to return from a leg injury suffered against Malmo. The Blues have gotten by in attack without him thus far, so Kai Havertz and whoever Tuchel chooses on the wings will look to continue that stretch. Leicester still offers a legitimate challenge to any team in the league though. The Foxes aren’t as strong as last season, but they’ll still represent the toughest test that Chelsea has faced in Lukaku’s absence.
Kovacic is also set to miss out, which isn’t as big of a deal as it may seem considering the Blues’ depth in the middle of the park. Jorginho and Kante are more than capable of holding down the fort, considering they will both place fairly high at the Ballon d’Or Award Ceremony later this month. Kovacic has been Chelsea’s best player thus far this season, this much is true, but the Blues’ unbelievable depth is on display again with Jorginho and Kante able to step in. Further, Tuchel has the option of playing Ross Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Saul there if needs be.
The questions arise when analyzing the players who are just in contention to start; namely Mount, Pulisic and Werner. While rushing players back from injury is always a concern at Chelsea, there is no real reason to worry about Mount. It’s important to remember he came back from his true injury before the international break. His questionable status arises from his recent wisdom teeth removal. If he’s pain free—which is expected after this much time—he needs to be in the starting XI. Pulisic and Werner are different stories.
Pulisic had an impressive cameo on international duty, scoring the go-ahead goal for the United States from off the bench against Mexico. Still, Gregg Berhalter was hesitant to start the Chelsea wide man in either match. This indicates Pulisic is not 100 percent fit and if that’s the case, there is absolutely no reason to risk his long-term health once again just to see him start at the King Power Stadium. Pulisic brings far too much to the table to risk another lengthy injury stint on the sideline. The Blues have options aplenty with Mount occupying one wing. They can turn to Callum Hudson-Odoi, Hakim Ziyech and even Barkley or Loftus-Cheek. The last big question mark is Werner. He was enjoying a nice run of form ahead of the injury he sustained against Malmo, which is quite a shame considering his struggles over the last 15 months. Nevertheless, Werner’s game is dependent on his ability to out-pace defenders and play off the back shoulder of the opponents. If he’s not fully fit, his gameplay could suffer because of it. The risk is greater than the reward in Werner’s case, much like his fellow aforementioned attacker.
The Blues have an incredibly tough run of games coming up in the near future. Juventus and Manchester United await Chelsea following its weekend trip up to Leicester. The Blues will need to be at full strength for these crucial contests, so risking more potential injuries in the first game back from the international break would be playing with fire. Tuchel needs to keep the questionable players on the bench or he risks getting burnt at an important time.
Who makes your starting XI away at Leicester? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!