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disrupted by the Covid-19, Chelsea seeks a new breath

The Blues were held in check by Wolverhampton last weekend (0-0). PETER CZIBORRA / REUTERS

Traveling to Aston Villa this Sunday (6:30 p.m.), the Blues have no choice but to bounce back or risk seeing City and Liverpool take the lead. The title race could take a decisive turn on the occasion of Boxing Day.

End of the state of grace for Chelsea. Leading the Premier League on the evening of the 14th day, the Blues gradually stalled in December until they found themselves six lengths behind Manchester City before the Boxing Day festivities. And their first match against Aston Villa (6:30 p.m.) by Steven Gerrard, positive for Covid-19 and therefore absent from the Villans bench, is already of capital importance in order to continue dreaming of a first league title. since 2017.

The Londoners were however well launched with six victories in eight matches in the league before being overthrown by the ardor of neighbor West Ham on December 4 (2-3). Since then, Chelsea have only won a small, narrow match against the sick Leeds (3-2, December 11), and remain on two inglorious draws against Everton (1-1) and Wolverhampton (0-0) , to which is added the end of the match spoiled in Saint Petersburg in C1, which deprived the Blues of first place in the group. A meager record at the time of embarking on the holiday marathon.

Workforce disrupted by the virus

“At the moment it is too easy to take points at Chelsea.We allow them to get away with points and draws. It happens too often“, enraged Thomas Tuchel at the microphone of sports talk, on the evening of the draw at home against a diminished Everton (1-1, December 16). The German technician lamented a recent lack of sharpness from his troops, long carried away by the enthusiasm of the young generation of the “Baby Blues” (academy players).

Only the brilliant Mason Mount (4 goals in 5 matches in December) continues to perform up front, since he is the only attacking element to have scored at least one goal in December. Moreover, the London attackers, like the American Christian Pulisic, who could know his last hours on the side of Cobham, are down … or unable to play. Thus, the workforce of the European champions has been hard hit by the Covid-19 in recent weeks with the absence of three attackers (Lukaku, Werner, Hudson-Odoi), to which was added Kai Havertz, also ill without yet test positive.

Thomas Tuchel complained about the infernal schedule imposed on his players. PAUL CHILDS / REUTERS

Tuchel pleads for the return of the five changes

Non-negligible absences for an already less dashing formation, both offensively and defensively. But as many elements as Tuchel hopes to recover for the crucial meetings which are announced, with the future receptions of Brighton (December 29, 8:30 p.m.) and especially of Liverpool (January 2, 5:30 p.m.). Infernal cadences that the former PSG coach discovers (he arrived in January 2021) but which he tastes little in these difficult times. “We have never experienced this, we are only concerned about the health of the players, won the German after the draw at Wolverhampton (0-0), a match that Chelsea had tried to postpone. They are worried about their health because we have had several positive cases in recent weeks and it will continue. I have said it and said it again, I do not understand why the Championship is not interrupted.

Remarks which therefore date from a week ago and which called into question the holding of the sacrosanct week of Boxing Day, which will be held well, at all costs and despite three matches already postponed this Sunday. And to allow his players to keep (a little) in shape, the former Dortmund coach argued in favor of a return of the five changes, abandoned this season only in the Premier League. “I am a strong supporter of the five changes. They were invented during the pandemic and I think we should put them back in place if we want to keep playing.“, Pleaded Tuchel, whose voice is beginning to be heard like his influential compatriot Jürgen Klopp.

And to do as well as the Liverpool coach in 2020, the Chelsea manager will need to find his workforce in full possession of his means. Because everything remains to be played, as his playing master Mason Mount insists on the club’s website: “We are able to fight for the first place but we know that if we lose a bit of quality and we slip little by little we will be out of the race.»

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