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Chalobah, Chilwell, Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic: The Chelsea Fitness News for Zenit St Petersburg Clash

Thomas Tuchel has several Chelsea selection decisions to make due to the increasing list of absentees in the squad ahead of their Champions League clash against Zenit St Petersburg.

Chelsea head to the Gazprom Arena in Russia on Wednesday night in their final match of Group H, before they enter the knockouts as they look to retain their European crown.

Top spot is still up for grabs. Chelsea just need to equal or better Juventus' result against Malmo to ensure they remain in first.

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Despite this, with nine fixtures in December, Tuchel has one eye on the Leeds United fixture at the weekend and will look to make several changes to freshen the team up to avoid risking further injuries. 

Tuchel is yet to decide the team for Wednesday night, but minutes for Saul Niguez and Ross Barkley are expected in St Petersburg.

"The decisions are not made yet because we just had another good training," Tuchel told reporters on Tuesday. "We had a bit of an acute overload due to injuries and the schedule. The schedule is the schedule, we can handle it but due to our injuries like in central midfield where we have guys out like Trevoh, we struggle a little bit in defence and have some overloaded players. 

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"The game tomorrow (Wednesday) isolated is not the problem in terms of being overloaded. It is more the game coming up on Saturday again because we played the early match on Saturday vs West Ham. We have an evening game vs Zenit on Wednesday, this gives us time. The guys look fresh, they are ready tomorrow. We can let any one of the 17 players plus goalkeepers to play. The problem is the next match on Saturday. We lose time to sleep, we arrive in the very early morning on Thursday then Saturday we face an intense team of Leeds who prepare the whole week. 

"Long story short, there is a huge chance we rest some players. Maybe more important, we give some players who need the load and the minutes, to give them rhythm. The decisions will be made tomorrow, there’s a huge chance for that.”

Here is the latest Chelsea team news to face Zenit on Wednesday night:


Trevoh Chalobah

The 22-year-old is still out with a hamstring injury sustained against Watford last week, and won't make it back in time to face Zenit. 

Chalobah is believed to be close to a return and is targeting the Everton home match in the Premier league on December 16 as the fixture to be available for.

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Ben Chilwell

The 24-year-old is the obvious absentee for the Blues for the midweek trip to Russia. He remains out for the remainder of the year with a partial anterior cruciate ligament injury which is picked up against Juventus last month. 

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N'Golo Kante

Tuchel labelled Kante as a 'superman' who Chelsea miss in the midfield after confirming he would be out, as he stays at Cobham while the rest fly out to St Petersburg. 

The Chelsea head coach explained his absence and return in his pre-match press conference: "It is a very open relationship with him. He takes care about this, he needs his time. We don’t have the feeling it is about age he takes longer. He is a careful person, he takes care of his body and doesn’t take risk. 

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"I think he is Superman. He is the guy who makes the difference, the guy everybody in the whole world wants in his midfield. We miss him for a long time. Can we produce results and top performances without N’Golo? We can. We proved it already. It’s easier if he is not out for too many weeks. We built him up after his last injury. We had an accident, this can happen. This is not related to age or overload, simply an accident during the match. Happened against Juventus, of course we miss him a lot.”

Jorginho

Jorginho has been playing through pain in recent matches, and it will keep the Italian sidelined in midweek. Tuchel confirmed he would be unavailable for selection due to a back injury.

Tuchel said: "Jorginho is out for this back pain. You know, he played with back pain in West Ham. He played because we miss Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante for such a long time. This is what I meant. Sometimes you overload, overplay players.

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"Especially with Jorgi, he comes from the Euros and Champions League. He comes with no pre-season into Euro Cup final. We knew in some weeks he would face maybe a dip of freshness and form. In the moment it happens, absolutely natural that our two main other midfielders are out for injury."

Mateo Kovacic

The 27-year-old has been out with a hamstring injury and made his return to training on Monday. It was a welcome sight for Tuchel and co as they eyed the Leeds United clash as his return. 

"Mateo was in training yesterday with a big smile and a pure pleasure to have him back," said Tuchel.

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But the Blues suffered a major blow as Tuchel confirmed the Croatian tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday and will need to self-isolate.

"We have bad news," added the Blues head coach. "He got tested positive today (Tuesday) for Corona so he is isolating. Current headache. He is out for another several days, a huge setback for him personally and for all of us.”


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