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Four players Tuchel must start against Fulham to keep Chelsea fresh for Real Madrid clash

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Thomas Tuchel is likely to make changes to his Chelsea side with the second leg of the Blues’ Champions League semi-final to come against Real Madrid on Wednesday

Now I know this is going to sound a little strange but bear with me. Chelsea’s Premier League game against Fulham tomorrow may prove more difficult than their midweek Champions League semi-final first leg against Real Madrid.

Yes, you read that right. The team that currently sits 18th in the Premier League table and have won just two of their last ten league matches may very well be a sterner test for Thomas Tuchel and his players than the 13-time European champions.

I’m sure you’re asking why, so let me explain.

First off is the fact that no professional footballer lacks motivation, desire, hunger, or any other synonym you care to choose when it comes to playing in a Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid.

Like it or not, Fulham at home doesn’t quite have the same gravitas nor provide the same mental stimulus.

Then there’s the reality that the second leg of the semi-final against the La Liga giants will be played on Wednesday. It’s only human for players’ minds to jump ahead, to look beyond Scott Parker’s side at the bigger, more enticing, fixture.
And finally is the fact Fulham can sit back, defend, and put the initiative onto Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. The Blues need to win to maintain momentum and keep themselves ahead in the race to finish in the Premier League top four. The pressure is very much on them.

Thomas Tuchel will be aware of the potential pitfalls and will try to guard against them. And perhaps the best way to do that is to freshen up his starting XI.

The German named an unchanged side for the first time in midweek, opting to go with the same eleven players who started last weekend’s victory over West Ham United. It paid off with the Blues claiming a 1-1 draw in the Spanish capital.

He will not do the same against Fulham. He can’t afford to. Players need to be rested, minds need to be kept sharp for the huge games ahead.

So changes to the side are likely and here are the four Chelsea players we think should start against the Cottagers.

Kurt Zouma

Under Frank Lampard, the French defender was an almost ever-present in the starting XI. Yet with Tuchel at the helm – and despite the German coach favouring a system which utilises three centre-backs – Zouma has struggled for regular minutes.

He’s started only eight of the 22 matches Tuchel has overseen, the last of which was the 0-0 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion in which the 26-year-old made a late error which almost cost Chelsea a point.

Zouma is very much bottom of the centre-back pecking order. However, he should start against Fulham with 36-year-old Thiago Silva unlikely to feature and Cesar Azpilicueta leggy in the latter stages against Madrid having played two consecutive matches at right wing-back.

Callum Hudson-Odoi

One of the first decisions Tuchel made after replacing Lampard at the end of January was to deploy Hudson-Odoi at wing-back in his 3-4-2-1 system.

The 20-year-old started the German coach’s opening two matches in the role and was then pushed into the forward line for the 1-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur.

It appeared as though Hudson-Odoi finally had a coach that trusted him and was ready to unlock his vast potential. That is no longer the case as starts have become sporadic over the last two months for the academy graduate.

Hudson-Odoi has been named in the side just three times since the beginning of March with Reece James now Tuchel’s to-go at right wing-back.

James is likely to start in the position against Fulham seeing as he only played 24 minutes against Madrid.

Hudson-Odoi, meanwhile, should be trusted in the forward line once again. He built his reputation as a devastating winger in the Blues’ academy, often coming in off the left flank to threaten goal.

Chelsea supporters saw a glimpse of what Hudson-Odoi can do in that role against Everton last month. It’s time for him to be given an opportunity to build on that.

Hakim Ziyech

Tuchel admitted ahead of Tuesday’s game against Real Madrid that the Morocco international was unfortunate not to start given his performance in the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City.

“It was a close one to leave Hakim out because he deserved to play, he was very decisive in the last games,” Tuchel said.

Fortunately, it does mean that Ziyech will be fresh to face Fulham tomorrow. And if the 28-year-old was to start on the right of the attacking three, it may enable Mason Mount to have a rare break from the side.

Although with Mateo Kovacic a doubt due to injury and N’Golo Kante’s fitness carefully managed by Tuchel, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Mount included in the double six alongside Jorginho, as he was against Brighton.

Tammy Abraham

The last two months have been far from easy for Chelsea’s top scorer.

He suffered an ankle injury against Newcastle United in February which forced him to miss seven matches and, after returning to full fitness during the recent international break, was then overlooked by Tuchel.

Abraham has continued to work hard in training, even doing extras after Tuchel’s sessions are over.

And he appears to be winning over the German coach who said ahead of last week’s win at West Ham: “He has struggled for several reasons, one of the reasons are my decisions, of course.

 

Latest Chelsea News

Just In: UEFA Changed Champions League Final Venue, See New Venue & Date

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The Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester City will be moved to Porto’s Estadio do Dragao from Istanbul, UEFA is set to announce.

UEFA had wanted to move the final to Wembley and was in talks with the UK government, but there was a considerable sticking point over waiving quarantine rules for the 2,000 staff, sponsors, VIPs and foreign media.

The fixture was due to take place at the Ataturk Stadium on May 29, but pressure mounted for the venue to be changed after the UK government placed Turkey on its ‘red’ list of at-risk countries and urged fans not to travel for the fixture. UK citizens returning from red-list countries are required to quarantine at a government-approved hotel for 10 days.

The capacity at the Estadio do Dragao is 50,000 and UEFA is in talks with the Portuguese government to allow 20,000 to attend the final. That would mean up to 6,000 tickets for fans of each club.

Fans have not been allowed to attend games in Portugal this season but the Portuguese league announced on Wednesday that they would be able to watch the final round of league games next Wednesday with stadium capacities capped at 10 per cent.

Portugal is on the government green list so UK visitors will be able to travel there from Sunday. They will not need to quarantine but they will have to take Covid-19 tests before and after they travel.

It would have been cheaper and easier for UEFA to host the game at Wembley – which already has the infrastructure set up to be a UEFA European Championship venue next month – but the governing body felt it could not do so without the guarantee of government waivers.

As far as UEFA is concerned, fans would not be able to attend at all if the final had remained in Istanbul so it believes it has tried to do the best in difficult circumstances.

As far as Chelsea and City supporters are concerned, the final should be at Wembley.

This will be the third final in Portugal in eight years but the first in Porto.

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Latest Chelsea News

It is on me’ – Thomas Tuchel admits he made too many mistakes to his Chelsea side against Arsenal

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Thomas Tuchel has admitted making too many changes to his Chelsea side cost them the game against Arsenal.

 

The Blues fell to a disappointing 1-0 defeat at home to Arsenal on Wednesday night with Emile Smith Rowe scoring the game’s only goal.

 

Tuchel made seven changes to the side that beat Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium at the weekend with one eye firmly on Saturday’s FA Cup final against Leicester City.

 

Speaking after the defeat, Tuchel conceded he had made a mistake in making so many changes – also suggesting he had fears over certain players coming into the match after recent training sessions.

 

Tuchel told Sky Sports: ‘We could not put up the same intensity and energy as usual.

 

‘It is on me, I think it was too many changes from the last match and I take full responsibility for that and maybe it is the last wake up call for all of us.’

 

He added: ‘I felt it coming a little bit yesterday in training and I’m a bit unlucky that it has proven today on the pitch.

I regret that, but it’s like this. It’s ‘we could have, we could have, we could have’, but we didn’t and that’s what it’s all about.’

 

Defeat drags Chelsea firmly back into a battle for a top four finish.

 

Following their FA Cup meeting with Leicester, they head to the King Power Stadium for their penultimate league match of the season next Tuesday.

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Latest Arsenal News

Video Highlights, Full Match Analysis: Chelsea 0 – 1 Arsenal

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Emile Smith Rowe denied Chelsea the chance to cement their top-four status as he took advantage of Jorginho’s howler to give Arsenal a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues would have all but secured their Champions League qualification with a victory which would have taken them 10 points clear of Liverpool, who have four games left to play, but after making seven changes ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final, struggled to create clear-cut chances.

Kai Havertz should have put them ahead 10 minutes in when he intercepted Gabriel’s loose pass for Pablo Mari and raced clean through, but then fired over Bernd Leno’s bar with only his compatriot to beat. Moments later Jorginho’s equally poor back-pass was kept out by Kepa Arrizabalaga at full stretch, but Smith Rowe was on hand to bundle home after being teed up by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Chelsea were dominant for the large majority of the remaining 75 minutes without forcing Leno into any uncomfortable saves until the final minute. They did beat him through Pulisic’s close-range header from a corner, which was swiftly denied by a VAR review, before the German produced a stunning stop to tip Kurt Zouma’s header onto the crossbar, which was then rattled by Olivier Giroud’s shot on the rebound.

Player Ratings

Chelsea: Kepa (6), James (6), Azpilicueta (6), Silva (6), Zouma (6), Chilwell (5), Jorginho (4), Gilmour (5), Pulisic (5), Mount (6), Havertz (5).

Subs: Hudson-Odoi (6), Giroud (6), Ziyech (5).

Arsenal: Leno (7), Gabriel (6), Mari (7), Holding (6), Tierney (7), Partey (6), Elneny (8), Saka (5), Odegaard (6), Smith Rowe (7), Aubameyang (5).

Subs: Bellerin (6), Lacazette (5), Chambers (6).

Man of the match: Mohamed Elneny

What the managers said…

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel told Sky Sports: “We had three days, we are on a good run, we had a good mood. The choices were not so good today from my side for the line-up so that’s on me. We were unlucky, of course. But we did everything today to lose.

“I’m not happy with my line-up. It’s easy to say afterwards. But it was too many changes, I should not have done it like this. It’s something in particular – but I will not tell you!”

 

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta told Sky Sports: “I don’t know how they’re going to try from the outside but from the inside, nothing is broken.

“They’re going to put things on me that I never said, you can see the spirit of the team from the first minute. You can never doubt their efforts and how much they try.”

Match stats

  1. Arsenal completed their first Premier League double over Chelsea since the 2003-04 season, while this was their first league win at Stamford Bridge since October 2011, ending an eight-game winless run there (D2 L6).
  2. Chelsea suffered only their third defeat in 26 matches in all competitions under Thomas Tuchel (W17 D6), with all three defeats coming at Stamford Bridge.
  3. Arsenal have won three consecutive away Premier League matches without conceding for the first time since May 2013 under Arsène Wenger.
  4. Arsenal have had a different player aged younger than 21 score in each of their last three Premier League matches against Chelsea – Gabriel Martinelli in January 2020, Bukayo Saka in December 2020 and Emile Smith Rowe tonight.

What’s next?

Chelsea are off to Wembley in the FA Cup final on Saturday, where they will face Leicester City; Kick-off at 5.15pm.

Arsenal’s penultimate game of the season is also in London, with a trip to Crystal Palace next Wednesday night; Kick-off at 7pm.

📽️ Watch The Video Highlights:

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