As injuries rock Chelsea, Tuchel to hands wonderkid first EPL start against West Brom

The Chelsea head coach has more than one difficult decision to make when it comes to picking his team against West Bromwich Albion

First, N’Golo Kante was sent back to Cobham after sustaining a hamstring injury while representing France and the severity of the issue has yet to be determined.

Then Callum Hudson-Odoi picked up a shoulder problem that caused him to miss England Under-21s’ defeat to Portugal.

And finally, England have confirmed that Mason Mount didn’t train with the rest of the senior group today and was instead “working indoors with the medical and performance team”.

The expectation – and hope – is that these are slight knocks and little more. Yet given the injuries Chelsea took into the international break, Thomas Tuchel will be undoubtedly concerned

The Chelsea head coach has been without Thiago Silva (thigh) and Tammy Abraham (ankle) for several weeks.

And Jorginho was added to the absentee list after missing the Blues’ FA Cup quarter-final win against Sheffield United with a knee injury sustained in the 0-0 draw with Leeds United.

That trio have continued their recovery work at home and at Cobham during the international break and they were all back in training this afternoon. But they still may not be ready to take on West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

The Baggies currently sit 19th in the Premier League table and have won just two matches since the start of December. They are not an opponent to rush players back for, especially given Chelsea take on Porto in the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday.

So if Jorginho isn’t deemed ready to return and Kante is viewed as too big a risk to feature, something which given his recent history with hamstring problems is likely, then a space opens up in the Blues midfield. And it’s one that should be filled by Billy Gilmour.

The 19-year-old has struggled for regular game time under Tuchel. Since the German’s appointment at the end of January, Gilmour has made just two appearances for Chelsea, both of which were in the FA Cup.

Tuchel has often been quick to praise the Scotland Under-21 international in press conferences and confirmed prior to the international break it was his decision to stop Gilmour leaving Stamford Bridge on loan in January.

“It was unfortunately not his choice. It was my choice. The choice was made for Chelsea and not for the personal goals of Billy. He accepted it in a five-minute talk, he had no problem with it. I actually hope he knows how much I appreciate him as a person and as a footballer.”

The Blues head coach added: “I feel Billy is a strong part of the squad. I know it is hard for him and we have talked now several times because sometimes he does not make it to the match-day squad because we play with two central midfielders and I already have one of the three guys I mentioned on the bench.

“I go for other options to cover other possibilities during a match but it does not mean when you are out of the squad like Billy that you first have to find your way back to the bench, then you have to find your way back for five minutes, then you can start.

“You can start right away the next game. It can happen when you train in a positive attitude like Billy and with the quality he shows. This is the situation. Nothing has changed. I am super happy he is here.”

Tuchel has an opportunity against West Brom to prove to Gilmour those weren’t mere platitudes. The young midfielder will be fresh having not been selected for international duty by Scotland and will have also had a full week’s training ahead of the game at Cobham.

And as proved in the FA Cup win over Sheffield United last time out, the teenager also possesses the quality to help break down Sam Allardyce’s side, who are almost certain to sit deep and attempt to frustrate the Blues.

The match appears ideal for Gilmour. And if he isn’t given an opportunity, it will only lead to further questions as to why Tuchel stopped him going out on loan in January.

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