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Ben Chilwell injury: what’s next as Chelsea consider Digne and loan reminders

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Ben Chilwell injury: what’s next as Chelsea consider Digne and loan reminders

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Homas Tuchel’s revival at Chelsea has been turned upside down after it was confirmed that Ben Chilwell will miss the rest of the season.

That left Tuchel weighing his options on how to cover the left-back spot in the short term, with a loan for Lucas Digne of Everton an option.

An alternative would be to use Saul Niguez in this role as cover for Marcos Alonso, in what would be a high stakes move.

Saul has struggled to come to terms with English football since his deadline loan transfer from Atletico Madrid – and part of the lure of joining Chelsea was the promise he would be allowed to play in his position preferred over central midfielder.

Alonso has been impressive under Tuchel – but Chelsea have felt the effects of Chilwell’s absence since he limped out of his 4-0 win over Juventus last month.

Since then, they have suffered an alarming mid-season crisis, which has seen them drop from first to third in the Premier League, where they are now behind leaders and champions Manchester City by six points.

Chilwell was in exceptional form before his injury – scoring four goals for club and country undefeated Chelsea in the nine games he started. They have only won three of eight since his injury.

Tuchel had refused to make the decision to put up short-term cover in January in hopes the 25-year-old would return to action early in the year.

Chelsea’s medical team had been encouraged by their initial reaction to treatment, but their rehabilitation had been disrupted by Covid.

The timing of confirmation that he’ll need surgery at least means Tuchel and CTO Petr Cech can try to find suitable coverage during the January window.

Digne emerged as a possibility after falling out of favor at Everton. They could also look into Emerson Palmieri’s potential recall from his Lyon loan.

Ian Maatsen is also on loan at Coventry, while Chelsea are linked with a longer-term move, with AC Milan defender Theo Hernandez.

Tuchel was already concerned enough about his side’s ability to cope with an intensive match schedule and the effects of injuries and Covid before a decision regarding Chilwell was made.

He was dejected after the Boxing Day victory over Aston Villa – admitting he would soon see the result as a turning point due to the uncertainty surrounding his team.

Action footage via Reuters

His hopes of keeping pace with an endemic Manchester City hinged on Chilwell’s return in the New Year.

Tuchel spoke this month about the difficulty of taking cover in January, saying: “Looking at the players and whether it is possible to have them in winter, there is a big gap between these two situations. The best option would be for Ben to continue his positive assessment.

Ahead of Chelsea’s game on Wednesday, Tuchel once again revealed his concern over the pressures on his players, who are still competing on all fronts and will take part in the Club World Cup in February.

“We love the schedule and we love to play in the winter and be the only league, but we also need league protection,” he said. “I absolutely cannot understand, zero percent, why we are the only league that plays all winter and the only league with three substitutes, in a time of strong and heavy threat from Covid.

“And in a period of strong Covid situations, a lot of games are postponed. Some games are postponed, some are not, and I’m very worried and I don’t understand why we only have three substitutes, it makes absolutely no sense. But that’s the situation.

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“So it’s worrying that we are struggling, we have injuries and players who have suffered from Covid. And we don’t have time to get them up, so it’s okay because you’d be stupid to do training if you can do it without training and a certain physical level, because it is very, very demanding what we do here.

But, again, we love the schedule, we love what we’re doing here and we love the race for every title. And we love to participate in the Carabao Cup, the Champions League and the Premier League.

“It’s absolutely not a problem, but we would like to have our squad and a normal injury situation.”

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