Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel will missed two of his players Mason Mount and Jorginho in the return leg of Champions League round of 16 at Stamford Bridge against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday
The point is that for all ability of Chelsea to stay unbeaten, these have not been easy teams to score goals against or easy coaches to outthink. Tomorrow cannot fail to intrigue, even if there are very few goals likely from either side.
As for Chelsea starting line-up, that is becoming the biggest imponderable of all. Mason Mount being unavailable is a blow, but it has to be kept in context. There are three or four at least that can play in that second number 10 position – and they aren’t bad!
Callum Hudson-Odoi, Hakim Ziyech, along with Timo Werner can each drop in there. Christian Pulisic loves that position, while there is little doubt that it is Kai Havertz’s favourite starting berth. Even N’Golo Kante could play there, though he will almost certainly be needed further back this time with Jorginho unavailable too. I will not be surprised if one day soon Reece James is asked to go into the deeper central role and that could free N’Golo to step forward to close down high up the field.
So it is still a long way from worrying about who is missing, as opposed to what is the best XI to pick from those available. For all the speculation, it will be up front where most of the thinking will have been done. It will be very hard if not impossible for Thomas Tuchel to ignore the presence of Olivier Giroud, considering there are a multitude of things stacking up in the Frenchman’s favour.
He has been well rested after warming the bench for the last three games. At 34 he is far from being on his last legs, but you would expect him to be as fresh as anyone having had that little mini-break.
He also has incredible experience at this level and every single manager will tell you that in the Champions League, in the knockout stages, experience is crucial. At this point you not only have to be good, you have to be very clever and know the ropes. He does.
There is also the fact that if he is up front it gives more options behind him. Havertz and maybe Werner in particular are made for a breaking game when the opposition might have to come on to you at some point. Either or both of those two behind Olivier will pose a serious threat.
There is also the small matter of Giroud absolutely loving this competition. There was his last-minute winner v Rennes, then there was the stunning four-goal haul against another Spanish club, Sevilla, even before his stunning overhead kick in the first leg against Atletico Madrid.
I reckon I would like to see Olivier Giroud on the pitch tomorrow, almost as much as Atleti would like to see him sat on the sidelines.
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