Thomas Tuchel said Tuesday that Chelsea must “start from scratch” in selecting a squad for their League Cup quarter-final after reporting yet another Covid-19 case as Liverpool’s assistant manager criticised the “absurd” festive schedule.
Chelsea were only able to name four outfield players on their bench for Sunday’s goalless draw against Wolves due to a wave of coronavirus infections and injuries.
Midfielder Lewis Baker was in line to feature at Brentford in Wednesday’s League Cup quarter-final after a number of academy stars trained with the first team but has now tested positive himself.
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“We can now start from scratch, and this is what we do right now,” said Tuchel. “We’ve delayed training until late afternoon. Right now we will prepare for the match to be played.
“But even to plan training is pretty exciting because until the very last hour you don’t know how many players will arrive.”
A frustrated Tuchel lamented having to rest N’Golo Kante due to his recent knee issue but Jorginho will return, having tested negative for Covid after inconclusive previous results.
Chelsea had their request to postpone their match at Wolves rejected and the following day the Premier League opted not to pause the schedule even though six of the 10 weekend games were called off.
That decision came on the same day that the English top flight reported 90 new coronavirus cases among players and staff last week — a big leap from 42 in the previous week.
Tuchel said he was not surprised by the decision to carry on, even though he felt the club had a strong case.
“I shared my thoughts with everybody,” he said. “We accept the situation and the challenge. We had 14 (outfield) players (in the squad) and with a lot of them we took a huge risk. We did not feel fully safe. Apart from that, we will accept the next challenge and it will not get easier because these guys are out.”
Liverpool’s assistant manager Pep Lijnders issued a stark warning over the punishing demands on the remaining fit players.
Jurgen Klopp’s men are one of eight clubs playing in this week’s League Cup quarter-finals in addition to a packed schedule of league matches over the Christmas and New Year period.
Liverpool currently have Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara and Curtis Jones isolating due to Covid and are expected to rotate heavily against Leicester on Wednesday.
They face two Premier League games in three days next week, against Leeds and Leicester again.
“We think it is absurd we have to play within 48 hours because it is a much higher risk of injury and the quality of the game will not be as good,” said Lijnders.
“The quality of the game goes down the more fatigue there is,” he added. “We have to respect the fact that a Premier League (team) needs 72 hours to recover if we want more quality.”