Football

Chelsea boss provides fitness update, plaudits for players

Following Tuesday night’s dramatic penalty shootout triumph over Southampton in the Carabao Cup, Thomas Tuchel provided an update on the fitness status of Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Following Tuesday night’s dramatic penalty shootout triumph over Southampton in the Carabao Cup, Thomas Tuchel provided an update on the fitness status of Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Tuchel described the Chelsea-Southampton tie as “intense” while noting his concerns about the status of the three players.

Che Adams cancelled out Kai Havertz’s first-half opening goal, requiring the west Londoners to book their place in the quarter-finals with spot-kicks. Although Mason Mount’s penalty was missed, the European champions advanced to the next round thanks to blunders by Theo Walcott and Will Smallbone.

Tuchel said: “It was an intense match of football, nice to watch for the spectators. It was an open fight, an intense match. We did a good shootout, a lot of quality. Kepa saved one, it was a miss too. There were a lot of changes.

“We hope Azpi is back [for Saturday]. He had a shoulder injury yesterday after a little accident in training. He fell on his shoulder and it is very painful but it is Azpi and he is a tough guy.

“Andreas needed surgery on his tooth and he should be back, if no complications, Thursday in training. Ruben felt some pain after training in the hip joint and hopefully, we can handle it until Saturday.“

Tuchel congratulated Chelsea’s backup goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who saved a penalty and made other great saves over the entire game.

“When everyone thinks about stoppage time and penalties it is a dangerous moment, you can lose concentration. It was important that Kepa kept us in the game with the doubleheader save from the set pieces.”

Saul was another man who got some much-needed minutes. Tuchel was surprised by the midfielder’s fitness and intensity as he played the full game against the Saints.

“It was a good match, a huge step in the right direction for him. I am happy. We thought maybe he would be struggling with the intensity at the 70th minute but he got better and better, had chances and shots. We thought let’s keep him and give him the minutes. It was a good step for him.”

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