Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel acknowledges that it is extremely tough for him to start games without Cesar Azpilicueta, the club captain.
The 32-year-old Azpilicueta has only started one of the first three Premier League games.
The versatile defender has recently lost out to the dynamic pair of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Reece James in the previous two games despite competing for a position as either a right wing-back or right-sided center-back.
It is challenging to exclude Azpilicueta.
Azpilicueta’s benching has been Tuchel’s “toughest choice” lately, the coach has said.
There is no denying the seasoned defender’s importance to the team, which is why it was a huge relief when he agreed to a new two-year contract this summer.
However, you have to wonder if he still belongs in the top lineup.
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Tuchel remarked, “Azpi is amazing every day in training, as a leader, and as a player.”
“Leaving him out is now the hardest choice, but we need a little height.”
Azpilicueta is still a fantastic option in the group at Stamford Bridge, despite Chris Sutton’s suggestion that he was becoming “unreliable” last season.
Kalidou Koulibaly, the Blues’ starting centre back, is suspended for today’s home game against Leicester City, so Azpilicueta should be optimistic about playing his second game of the year.
Up until the winter World Cup, the calendar appears to be quite busy. Tuchel must thus have a team he can depend on and have faith in.
This Saturday, as Chelsea looks to bounce back from their resounding 3-0 loss to Leeds United, it could be time to bring in a seasoned mind like Azpilicueta.