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First Team

Hot Off The Press: Chelsea

football.London's Adam Newson on The Blues

2 April 2022

Before we get to the elephant in the room, Chelsea are third in the Premier League going into the final stretch of the season, 10 points behind second-placed Liverpool and five above fourth-placed Arsenal. What have you made of what you have seen in the first quarter of 2022?

After a tricky January in which several members of the Chelsea squad appeared out on their feet, things have come together for the Blues on the pitch over the past two months. Thomas Tuchel's side lifted the Club World Cup and have progressed to the semi-final of the FA Cup and the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Along the way, they've won 12 of their last 13 matches – and the only game they failed to come away with victory was the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool. Tuchel appears to have settled upon Kai Havertz (pictured above) as the number nine ahead of Romelu Lukaku and that has kickstarted the Chelsea attack, with Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic showing some good form. It may all be coming together at just the right time. 

The club ownership has been in the spotlight over the last month, but without going into all the details, could you provide a general idea of the current situation in terms of interested parties etc?

The situation at the time of writing – and it changes an awful lot! – is that four prospective bidders have been shortlisted and these will have the opportunity to submit second offers to US merchant bank The Raine Group by April 11. The supposed plan is for a preferred bidder to then be decided upon by Chelsea and for the sale to progress. There is some hope that a takeover could all be done by the end of April but that personally feels a little optimistic to me. 

Remarkably, the uncertainty off the pitch does not seem to have affected the squad, who are on a five-match winning run in the Premier League, in the FA Cup semi-finals and the Champions League quarter-finals, too. How has Thomas Tuchel managed to keep his players settled?

Football-wise, things haven't changed too much for Tuchel and his players. They are still able to work at Cobham, still able to travel to games as they need, and still able to enjoy their usual pre-match routines. So that has obviously helped massively and Tuchel has spoken several times about the culture that has been instilled at the club over several years and how that is now being leaned upon. He is certainly not allowing the uncertainty that has engulfed the club over the last six weeks to be used as an excuse by anyone associated with Chelsea. 

Which player should Brentford fans be keeping an eye on when top-flight football returns this Saturday afternoon?

On the assumption he starts, it would have to be Kai Havertz. As mentioned above, he has established himself as the number nine ahead of Romelu Lukaku and has raised his game considerably in recent weeks. The German has four goals in his last three Premier League games, but it's his off-the-ball work that has really seen him overhaul Lukaku. Havertz covers a huge amount of ground to ensure Chelsea's press works and when the ball is recovered, he has plenty of quality to make sure chances are fashioned or taken. 

How is Tuchel likely to set up his side at Stamford Bridge?

Since the start of the year, Tuchel has been more willing to change shape to a 4-3-3 or 4-2-2-2. That was partly forced upon him due to injuries to Reece James and Ben Chilwell, both of whom were hugely influential as wing-backs in Chelsea's 3-4-3. That James is fit for this game is a huge boost and as a result, I suspect Tuchel will go with the 3-4-3 and look to dominate in wide areas and in the half-spaces occupied by the numbers tens, who I feel are likely to be Mason Mount and Hakim Ziyech. 

Chelsea have won both of the previous meetings between the two teams so far during this campaign, but what is your score prediction for this one?

The challenge for Chelsea is to recapture the momentum they had built up prior to the international break. I'm not sure they'll regain that instantly but I think they'll get the job done. I'll go for 2-1. 

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