(Reuters) – Chelsea must “find solutions” on the pitch despite not having a full-strength squad, manager Thomas Tuchel said on Tuesday, as the London side face the busy year-end fixture period short of several players due to injury or COVID-19.
Chelsea had only four outfield players on the bench for the goalless draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League on Sunday after seven members of their squad tested positive for coronavirus.
Premier League clubs agreed on Monday to continue playing games scheduled over the festive period despite several fixtures having been postponed at the weekend due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. Tuchel said he was not disappointed by that decision.
“I don’t have a solution for the whole league, the schedule,” said Tuchel before Wednesday’s League Cup quarter-final at Brentford. “I don’t know. Maybe it (a break) would have just delayed the problem.
“But we are just disappointed that we don’t have the players to fulfil our goals and play at the highest level of competitive football.”
Jorginho is back in training after a negative test for COVID-19, but N’Golo Kante will not play against Brentford as he tries to return to full fitness after a knee injury. Andreas Christensen and Trevoh Chlobah are doubtful due to injuries.
“N’Golo Kante played 90 minutes against Wolves which was close to irresponsible,” said Tuchel. “Will he be in the squad tomorrow? No.”
“We will now give him time to recover and prepare for Aston Villa (in the Premier League this Sunday).”
Tuchel said Under-23 players trained with the squad as Chelsea prepare to play three matches in eight days during the festive period.
“It is nothing new to play three matches in a week but without nine or 10 players it is challenging, so we struggle a little bit. But we’ll find solutions,” he added.
Brentford had their Premier League match against Southampton at the weekend postponed due to a rise in COVID-19 cases among players and staff. But manager Thomas Frank said they did not have any cases ahead of Wednesday’s game against Chelsea.
“We are in a fine place… We closed our training ground on Thursday last week and that helped us break the circuit of transmission of the virus.
“From having six or seven positive cases last Thursday… we have zero today.”
(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)