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Friday, December 9, 2022

Chelsea run-in: A third Champions League win the big target as Thomas Tuchel focuses on cups

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W

hile the takeover saga continues at Chelsea, things are looking better on the pitch.

Thomas Tuchel’s side look to have recovered from the blip to have derailed their Premier League title challenge, setting up the chance to make a play for the cup competitions in which they remain.

James Robson takes a look at the club’s run-in as domestic action gets set to return.

What shape is the squad in after the international break?

Reece James is back to full fitness, which is a major boost for Thomas Tuchel. We saw his influence in the 4-0 against Burnley last month, which underlines just how much Chelsea have missed him for the majority of 2022.

Aside from the long-term injury to Ben Chilwell, Tuchel’s squad looks as healthy as it has for most of the season.

Keeping James fit feels key. So much of Tuchel’s system is based on his attacking qualities on the right.

There is a belief within the club that his absence, along with Chilwell, effectively pulled the rug from under Chelsea’s season around the midway stage.

What is the club aiming for from the rest of the season?

There is still all to play for.

The FA Cup semi-final, Champions League quarter-final and, while a major outside bet, they are on a run that might yet see them have a say in the title race.

Realistically, it all about the cups – and given Tuchel’s record, don’t rule him out of a Champions League and FA Cup double.

And the minimum requirement?

It would be a disappointment if Chelsea did not add another trophy to the European Super Cup and Club World Cup they have already won this season.

Retaining their Champions League crown would be the dream.

What are the factors that will settle the campaign?

Keeping their squad fit will be key. They have proven that they can keep pace with Manchester City and Liverpool when they have all their tools at their disposal.

With a fully fit squad, they can compete with anyone.

Kai Havertz, meanwhile, is enjoying his best form since joining the club. They need to keep him firing.

What’s the mood in the camp?

Perhaps the most impressive part of a run of 12 wins from their last 13 is the manner in which Tuchel has focused minds in the midst of the wider concerns.

Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned, the club is up for sale and they still don’t know how they will pay for their journey to Real for the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final with a £20,000 limit on their travel budget.

The fact there has been little impact on the pitch is nothing short of remarkable.

AFP via Getty Images

Who’s got something to prove?

Romelu Lukaku has been a major disappointment. His form has been so poor that he’s been pushed down the pecking order to the point that it is almost certain he will be on the bench versus Real.

It seems unlikely that Lukaku will force his way in between now and the end of the season – but if he can be an effective substitute, he could still be decisive.

Remaining fixtures:

Brentford (h), Real (h), Southampton (a), Real (a), Leeds (a), Palace (FA Cup), Arsenal (h), West Ham (h), Everton (a), Wolves (h), Manchester United (a), Watford (h)

Prediction:

Third place and one trophy.

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