Thomas Tuchel has allayed fears over Reece James’ absence for Chelsea against Southampton, saying the defender is ill and has been left out of the squad as a precaution.
James had not been spotted in training before the trip to St Mary’s and was absent when the side stepped off the team bus ahead of Tuesday night’s Premier League clash.
But the 22-year-old’s problem is minor and Tuchel wasn’t about to risk him against Southampton, especially with a London derby against West Ham on Saturday before the Champions League kicks off a few days later.
Speaking to BT Sport ahead of the game, Tuchel said of James’ absence: “He’s trained badly! No, no, it’s not true. Unfortunately he is ill and could not travel.’
On Trevoh Chalobah’s absence, he continued: “And Trevoh Chalobah is injured, a problem from the game [vs Leicester] so with N’Golo Kante and some other players [missing] It’s a tight squad.’
Speaking about the current worn-out nature of his squad, Tuchel added: “I love the players, I love working with them, but when you see our upcoming schedule, when you see the game today and you see the bench, it’s something worrying in that we unfortunately already have a lot of key players out and not available.
“A team at our level and a team at this level of competition and wanting to win all the time needs confidence in the squad, needs everyone available to push each other to the limit.
“Unfortunately, we struggled at the very beginning of the season and hope things can change quickly.”
The England international’s absence takes away something of a selection problem for the Germany coach, who has stuck to a back four and returned captain Cesar Azpilicueta to the back line.
After starting the season’s opening game away at Everton, the veteran Spaniard has had to settle for the role of impact sub in the following three games – and was particularly impressive in Saturday’s win over Leicester as the side was reduced to 10 men .
“Right now it’s one of the toughest decisions because he’s so well trained and mentally in such good shape and shape,” said Tuchel when asked about Azpilicueta at his pre-match press conference.
“He pushes everyone and is fully committed – that’s what you want on the field. But if we play 4-4-2, it’s between him or Reece James.
“It’s a luxury problem we have but when we switched to a back five [against Leicester], we had the chance to have both on the pitch. We’re not going to get anywhere without tough decisions.’
Elsewhere, Kalidou Koulibaly returns to the back line after serving his suspension, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek works with Jorginho in midfield, with N’Golo Kante injured and Conor Gallagher serving his own suspension after being penalized for two bookable offenses against Leicester from was placed.
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