Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku should return to the Chelsea starting lineup for the FA Cup quarter-final against Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Chelsea will hope to seal a safe passage through to the FA Cup semi-finals when they lock horns with Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday evening. Thomas Tuchel is sweating over the fitness of a few key players ahead of his side’s latest fixture.
Andreas Christensen is the latest player to enter the treatment room after hobbling off in the UEFA Champions League clash with LOSC Lille earlier this week. The Dane has joined Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi on the sidelines, with the trio major doubts to take on Middlesbrough.
In addition to Christensen, James and Hudson-Odoi, Saul Niguez (COVID-19) could also miss out, while Ben Chilwell is a long-term absentee due to a knee injury. During his pre-match press conference, Tuchel provided an update on Christensen, James and Hudson-Odoi.
The Chelsea boss said, “We have Reece, Callum and Andreas Christensen uncertain. They are in training but not in full training yesterday so let’s see. We still some checks to do and it can be a very tight race, maybe too close.”
Elaborating on James and his England call-up, Tuchel said, “Yesterday he was not match ready so let’s see what happens tomorrow. He comes now from nine weeks of injuries altogether and we have to do late tests to see if he can even do full training today and be match ready for tomorrow, which is a big doubt. If not, it makes no sense for him to go [for England duty].”
James is unlikely to start against Middlesbrough, with Tuchel expected to preserve the English international ahead of sterner tests that await Chelsea next month. With Cesar Azpilicueta in line for a rest, Hakim Ziyech could start as the right wing-back against Middlesbrough. Meanwhile, Marcos Alonso is a certain starter on the opposite flank.
After utilising the 3-5-2 formation against Lille, Tuchel will likely revert to his oft-used 3-4-3 setup versus Middlesbrough. Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic should get the nod in the middle of the park, with N’Golo Kante earning a rest. Ruben Loftus-Cheek will be a backup midfield option for Chelsea.
The change of formation will prompt Tuchel to recall Mason Mount, with the Englishman being Chelsea’s chief creator. Mount will link up with Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku, with the attacking duo desperately looking for a way to impress the Chelsea boss. Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic will be options on the bench.
Kepa Arrizabalaga has been Chelsea’s cup goalkeeper this season, and the Spaniard should start ahead of Edouard Mendy on Saturday. And with Christensen a doubt and Thiago Silva likely to be rested, the central defensive unit of Antonio Rudiger, Malang Sarr and Trevoh Chalobah picks itself.
Predicted Chelsea XI: Kepa; Chalobah, Rudiger, Sarr; Ziyech, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Mount, Werner; Lukaku