Thomas Tuchel has revealed that Mason Mount is pushing for a return to fitness for the Carabao Cup final next weekend, while Reece James continues to make steady progress in his comeback from a longer-term muscle injury.
The update was provided by the Blues boss at his customary Friday press conference from Cobham, during which he also told reporters assembled via video link on Zoom that Ruben Loftus-Cheek was back available after missing our trip to Abu Dhabi.
Having been crowned FIFA Club World Cup champions last weekend, Chelsea are back in domestic action tomorrow with a local trip to Crystal Palace, our first Premier League outing for almost four weeks.
Mount will be missing after coming off early in last Saturday’s triumph over Palmeiras, while James is still yet to return to team training with the group after missing the past 10 games with a hamstring strain suffered against Brighton in late December.
‘We will push for the League Cup final,’ Tuchel said of Mount’s recovery. ‘He has injured ligaments in the very first minutes of the [Club World Cup] final unfortunately.
‘The Champions League seems to be very, very close,’ he added on the midfielder’s prospects of facing Lille in our last-16 first leg tie at Stamford Bridge next week.
James’s return is likely to be a little longer as the defender continues to train alone, though Tuchel hopes he can be back with the group next week…
‘We had a little setback because he caught the flu in the moment where he was very close to rejoining team training so this was a setback.
‘Of course, it’s too long for Reece and for all of us,’ stated the boss. ‘We miss him a lot. I had the feeling right from the very start that we had to deal with a big injury and unfortunately my feeling was right.
'You always have a risk with a very physical player like Reece and a big muscle injury, that you have to consider there is a delay with the comeback, which is where we are right now.
‘He’s still in individual training, progressing a lot and doing almost everything you can do in individual training and we’re waiting for him. The plan is that he rejoins the group next week.’
Loftus-Cheek, meanwhile, is available for selection against a side he spent the 2017/18 with on loan…
‘He had problems at his Achilles, a separate issue from before, but it was very painful with some inflammation. It was not a big injury but painful, which held him back from being on the pitch.
‘Since we got back from Abu Dhabi he’s been very strong and I can see that he feels free. He had an excellent training week and is available for the game.’
Asked about Kai Havertz’s progress this season, Tuchel gave a comprehensive answer on where the forward has improved and what more he can do…
‘If we isolate the goalscoring, maybe we can say we expect more and he expects more for sure but in consistency, in terms of what he’s giving to the team, he’s stepped up already and he is pretty consistent.
‘We can see a lot of intensity and physicality in his game. He has already stepped up from the beginning of this season in training and when he plays. He’s tougher to play, more physical and is more involved. He relies more on his strengths, which is his body and runs without the ball, and he’s more focused on this.
‘I think he’s in the process of being even more reliable and more consistent. Of course, he’s an offensive player with the ability to score and we want more goals so in this part of the game he can improve by being more clinical and more precise.
‘He can use his technique a bit better in shooting so there are aspects of the game where there is still space to develop because he’s also still young, but he’s now stepped up twice in big matches and crucial moments, which can only be good for his development.’
Finally, the boss gave his thoughts on our remaining targets this season, with the team still fighting on four fronts…
‘Sixteen points [behind leaders Man City] sounds too much and is too much to where we want to be and what we demand of ourselves but it’s the reality and a realistic approach is also necessary.
‘We should not get confused in thinking about winning the Premier League and still we have to realise that we are in a race for the top four right now, which is a huge thing in the Premier League in general.
‘At the end of the season you can look back and think about the reason why it’s like this and try to do stuff better. Of course you can also do stuff within the season to try to improve and this is what we do but right now the focus has to be on a realistic approach that we are in a race for top four.’