Big injury boost and Five things spotted as Chelsea return to training
After being crowned world champions, Chelsea’s players were given a couple of days off, but the first-team squad returned to Cobham yesterday to begin preparations for Saturday’s Premier League match against Crystal Palace.
Due to the January international break, the FA Cup and the Blues’ involvement in the Club World Cup, it’s been over a month since Chelsea were in action in the English top division.
Not that their standing at the table has changed. Thomas Tuchel’s team are still in third place, four points ahead of Manchester United, who won 2-0 against Brighton at Old Trafford yesterday night to go up to fourth.
The Blues’ next few weeks will be hectic, with the Champions League returning, the competition for a top-four finish in the Premier League heating up, and the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool looming at the end of the month.
Tuchel and his players, the bulk of whom are healthy and ready to participate in the next games, cannot afford to relax.
So here is what we noticed during Chelsea’s first training session since being declared global champions following their triumph against Palmeiras in the Club World Cup final on Saturday.
wish you were here
Because the Club World Cup was moved from Japan to Abu Dhabi, the Chelsea first-team squad was allowed to enjoy a week of warm-weather training.
The Blues players basked in the sun and avoided the cold and drab British winter for a few days in the UAE, where winter temperatures were in the mid-20s (Celsius).
However, reality would have hit in on the squad’s return to Cobham yesterday. The evening session took place under floodlights, in the pouring rain and wind, and at a temperature just over freezing.
It’s back to work
Cesar Azpilicueta created history with Chelsea’s Club World Cup victory: the Spaniard is the only Blues player to have won every major award during his time at the club.
It’s a feat that only Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, John Terry, Frank Lampard, and Didier Drogba have accomplished, and it confirmed Azpilicueta’s place as one of Chelsea’s best players.
However, there was little time for the club captain to revel in the triumph, as Azpilicueta, along with the rest of the team, returned to work at Cobham yesterday.
Chelsea will face two major challenges in the coming weeks: the opening leg of the Champions League Round of 16 against Lille on Tuesday, and the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool on Saturday.
It is necessary to maintain high standards. Azpilicueta will see to it that this occurs.
Ruben, welcome back…
Chelsea beat Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge prior to the January international break, although Ruben Loftus-Cheek was not in the team. The midfielder also missed the FA Cup fixture against Plymouth and did not travel to the Club World Cup with the first squad.
The reason for this has not been revealed, however SportEarly believes Loftus-Cheek has been suffering from an Achilles problem, but it is not the same as the one he ruptured in 2019.
Chelsea and Loftus-Cheek, understandably, did not want to take any chances, and he has been receiving therapy at Cobham for the past three weeks.
Loftus-Cheek was back in the group after the club’s return from Abu Dhabi, and he will be hoping to return to the matchday squad against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Romelu lukaku is fully relaxed
Romelu Lukaku has not had the easiest five weeks at Chelsea heading into the Club World Cup. Of course, the Belgian striker’s controversial interview with Sky Italia harmed his connection with the club’s supporters, so it was mostly his fault.
His record has also been poor, with only one goal against non-league Chesterfield in the FA Cup to show for seven games in three competitions for the Blues.
In Abu Dhabi, Lukaku needed to deliver, to step up and try to mend the chasm he had created. With the winner in the semi-final against Al Hilal and the opening in the final against Palmeiras, the 28-year-old accomplished this.
And on his return to Cobham, the Belgium international struck a calm figure as he practiced last evening, having now achieved the title of world champion.
With goals in the Champions League final and the Club World Cup, Kai Havertz has proven himself to be the man for the big event at Chelsea. The German’s new challenge is to become the guy for every occasion.
The 22-year-old will look to cement a starting spot in the coming weeks – there were encouraging signs of a developing chemistry with Lukaku in Abu Dhabi – and establish himself as the consistent striker the Blues have needed for the previous 18 months.
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