‘Don’t know’: Tuchel still isn’t sure how fit 27-year-old Chelsea star is despite playing 90 mins vs Brighton
Thomas Tuchel admitted that there is uncertainty about how far he can push Mateo Kovacic and other recovering Chelsea players.
Speaking after his side’s 1-1 Premier League draw with Brighton & Hove Albion, the Blues boss confessed his concern about the load being placed on several important squad members.
Tuchel has been battling against an injury-ridden team for nearly the entire season.
Last night was a perfect example of the strains the Champions League holders have been enduring since the campaign began.
Chelsea kicked off the match at Stamford Bridge without Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell and Timo Werner due to fitness issues or covid problems.
During the game, Reece James and Andreas Christensen were forced off after damaging themselves.
This meant Tuchel had little choice but to play some of his recently returned stars for the full 90 minutes.
One of those was Kovacic, who completed an entire game yesterday for the first time since late October, having been sidelined because of injury and then covid.
The 27-year-old midfielder, along with Romelu Lukaku, Jorginho and Mason Mount started and finished the fixture, despite all featuring prominently just three days earlier against Aston Villa.
N’Golo Kante also came off the bench on Wednesday, following on from his 63-minute run-out at Villa Park.
How healthy are Chelsea?
With a huge encounter at home to Liverpool just over the horizon, legs in the Chelsea camp must be feeling wearier than usual.
“The challenge is that we are not sure what we can demand,” said Tuchel on the difficulties facing his men.
“We simply don’t know what we can demand from Kova or from NG (N’Golo Kante) or from Romelu or from all the guys who had covid.
“We absolutely don’t know; we are doing trial and error here. Nobody knows how long they play, how much intensity they can play and this is why we struggled.
“They come back from long injuries and make the guys play and we have to be honest, we don’t know what we can demand.”
These stresses are only going to intensify the longer Chelsea’s injury list grows.
Not to mention the worry of allowing Manchester City to run away with the title, which is becoming an all too real possibility.
City are now eight points clear at the top of the table, thanks to their 1-0 win away to Brentford.
Liverpool’s loss to Leicester City and the Blues’ failure to overcome Brighton means Pep Guardiola will see in the New Year as the happiest manager in the land.