Thomas Tuchel is delighted to have most of his Chelsea players back, even if one remains out and two have not had “the best preparation” for their return.
Chelsea will be one of the first teams in action after the return from the international break. They will host West Brom at Stamford Bridge on Saturday lunchtime. Tuchel will not have had much time to work with his players again, but is ready for the challenge.
His squad is close to full fitness, with the Blues boss confirming that only N’Golo Kante has missed group training.
Tuchel is concerned that the midfielder may be unavailable in midweek as well. However, he is hopeful he may return in time for the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final against FC Porto.
“Yes, probably,” Tuchel said when asked if Kante would miss the first leg as well as Saturday’s game. “He is doing individual training and tomorrow the game and he can’t be with the squad.
“Then we have just three days to prepare. We have a muscle injury, as we communicated with the national team. So my realistic approach is to think about Porto, maybe the second game against Porto.”
Elsewhere, though, Tuchel has plenty of options to choose from. The return of Thiago Silva, who has not played since February, will be a particular boost.
With all his defenders now at his disposal, Tuchel is looking forward to the benefits that will bring.
“It’s the best situation you can have as a manager,” he said. “We can substitute players or replace players that are injured without a loss of quality. That is very good, gives us a good feeling.
“Tomorrow will see Thiago available and everyone else is fit. It’s the same with the goalkeepers.
“It’s very important to have this at this time of the season. We need everybody in top shape.”
After his first international break since taking charge of the Blues, Tuchel admitted he had mixed thoughts about the time off.
“It can be enjoyable to take a break, to breath and relax and refocus,” he said. “At the same time, it’s strange.
“The players come back from different time zone; [Olivier] Giroud and [Kurt] Zouma had a game with five hours time difference and they take three, four flights to arrive back.
“This is clearly not the best preparation to arrive for a game at 12.30pm. It’s a time that I am still adapting too. We don’t break out heads too much about it; it’s clear when you join a club like Chelsea we have to adapt.
“We had a good training session today and we will have the team together for dinner. It’s important we enjoy these moments and refocus for the games ahead.”
One familiar face for Chelsea in the West Brom squad is Conor Gallagher, although he will be unable to play as he is still on loan from the Blues.
Tuchel was not in charge when Chelsea sent Gallagher out on loan, but after Sam Allardyce gave his opinion, says a decision will not be made about his future yet.
“He has fought his way through as a loan player,” Tuchel said. “He never stops improving, is a regular for West Brom. I want him completely focused on that.
“When is the moment for us to decide on his future, we will decide. But that’s not now.”
Tuchel reacts to winning manager of the month
In the buildup to the game, Tuchel has learnt that he has been chosen as the Premier League manager of the month for March.
The ex-PSG boss has had an outstanding impact since replacing Frank Lampard and is yet to taste defeat in the Stamford Bridge dugout.
As such, he is pleased to have received the award, but insisted their form has been a team effort.
“It’s very unusual for us to have this reward,” he admitted. “It’s not an award you can achieve in France or Germany. It’s very nice.
“I don’t believe in individual awards in football so when I receive one I am a representative for everyone here at Cobham.
“I am grateful to receive an award like this and it means I am at the right club. I see it as a team award. It feels good.
“It’s not the end of the road we still compete in April and May and we want to produce.”
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