Thomas Tuchel says he will not risk playing N’Golo Kante in the second leg of Chelsea’s Champions League quarter-final against Porto unless the midfielder proves he is 100 per cent fit.
Kante sustained a hamstring injury during the recent international break with France and has only made two substitute appearances for Chelsea since, due to a lack of fitness.
Tuchel is keen to have Kante in his starting line-up as Chelsea aim to secure a spot in the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2014, but says he will not risk causing another setback for the midfielder despite the importance of the game.
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“First of all, I was unbelievably happy when he came with us last week [for the first leg] because I didn’t expect it,” Tuchel said ahead of Tuesday’s second leg at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Seville.
“He was confident enough to return earlier, to help us in the last 15 minutes.
“But the downside of this situation was that he lost a little bit of sleep after the travel issues, had less work in training because he was sitting on the bench and only playing 20 minutes.
“And the next day he suffered from travelling and could not train like he normally trains.
“We decided to play him from the bench against Palace but honestly, the decision I will make tomorrow morning when I see him in training then we will look at the others and how they feel.”
Chelsea are in a commanding position in the tie having won the away first leg 2-0 against Porto, but Tuchel insists he will not set his side out to protect their lead because he believes that will only prove to invite pressure from their opponents.
He added: “We have to accept against Porto that the game will be up and down. In some instances we controlled the match, created half chances, good counter-pressing but then in some minutes they escaped the pressure.
“Sometimes they overload sides and give you a lot of questions. In the first leg we experienced up and downs, then the momentum shifted, this is what you have to accept against them.
“For us it is important that we focus on us, play the best game possible as this increases the chances to have a result. In terms of a result, it is easier for Porto because they need to score three goals to get through, for them if it is clear. For us, if we start in this way then we could completely lose our heads. I hope we embrace the challenge and feel it.”
Chilwell: We’re all fighting to play under Tuchel
Ben Chilwell, who was the unlikely goalscorer late on in the first leg against Porto, says the competition among the Chelsea ranks, especially ahead of this summer’s European Championships, is bringing the best out of the players.
Chilwell has been battling with Marcos Alonso to be Tuchel’s first-choice left-back, with Manchester United’s Luke Shaw providing competition for a starting place in Gareth Southgate’s England team.
He said: “When the manager came in, it was a clean slate for everyone. I used it as an opportunity to work harder, to ask him questions in training where I can improve and get the opportunity, then prove to him I should be playing more regularly.
“It’s very healthy, especially at this stage of the season, everyone in the squad needs to challenge each other.”
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