'If we need him at 6am, we need him at 6am' – absent Tuchel on call ahead of Club World Cup semi-final

By Sports Desk February 08, 2022

Chelsea coach Zsolt Low is confident his side can cope without Thomas Tuchel on the sidelines for Wednesday's Club World Cup semi-final against Al Hilal.

Tuchel missed Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round win against Plymouth Argyle after testing positive for coronavirus and was also unable to fly out to Abu Dhabi.

The German will definitely miss the clash with Asian champions Al Hilal, but he could return for a potential final against either Palmeiras or Al Ahly on Saturday.

Low and Arno Michels will continue to fill in and the former insists Chelsea's preparations have not been hampered too much as Tuchel is providing regular input from London.

"We are constantly in contact with Thomas. We're using video calling all the time," Low said at a pre-match news conference on Tuesday.

"We change our ideas a lot of times in the day. We have good conversation to make it like he is here with us together.

"Petr Cech supports us well when Thomas is not here. We have a good medical staff, team management. We have a lot of support. And a lot of video calls with Thomas. 

"He'll support us as best he can and give us every day preparation in meetings. In the next days there's the possibility to talk to the team."

 

Despite the four-hour time difference between London and the United Arab Emirates, Low says Tuchel is available at any time of the day.

"It's not necessary for him to change time zone. We have meetings with an alarm call," he said. "If we need him at 6am, we need him at 6am. 

"We are training in the afternoon so Thomas is already awake then anyway. In the hotel it's a bit easier for him to chat to the team because of the connection. 

"Maybe here in the dressing room can be more difficult. We all the time have phone contact also during the game so he can analyse and try to translate to the team.

"Phone calls and messages aren't Thomas' strongest part but he needs to be prepared and ready and be with us on the phone. He's been absolutely perfect in the last few days."

Tuchel is continuing to isolate, but if he returns a negative test by Thursday he will be in place for this weekend's final – assuming Chelsea first overcome Al Hilal.

"He'll follow the government rules, get tested every day and we hope the next will be negative so he can travel as fast as possible and enjoy the group and the team," Low said. 

"We hope but we have texts, phone calls, video calls and give him the feeling he's with us. We need his absolute support. In 24 hours he could be here."

Al Hilal beat Al Jazira 6-1 to set up a showdown with Chelsea, who are looking to add the Club World Cup to their collection following last year's Champions League triumph.

The Blues were beaten 1-0 by Corinthians in the final in their only participation in the tournament a decade ago, but they are favourites to go all the win this time around.

"We have to take that role after winning the Champions League," Low said. "We know we're a good team and play a good game but Al Hilal are very good.

"Leonardo Jardim is a very good coach and they have a very good team. We take the role as favourites but for sure it will be a difficult game tomorrow."

The Champions League winners have made the final of the Club World Cup at 16 of the previous 17 editions, with Manchester United in 2000 the only exception.

Chelsea have lost just one of their past 15 games in all competitions, meanwhile, with their only loss in that period coming against Premier League champions Manchester City.

The English heavyweights will be without Reece James against Al Hilal, despite the defender being included in their squad, while Mason Mount will undergo a late fitness test.

Edouard Mendy is also set to link up with the squad ahead of the match, despite featuring for Senegal in Sunday's Africa Cup of Nations final win against Egypt.

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    Rodri the immovable object

    Having come through Leeds' academy, established himself as a key player and then gone on to be a fulcrum in Bielsa's team, Phillips was the first name on the teamsheet – when fit – for several years at Elland Road.

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    A match made in heaven

    Clearly, then, Guardiola's rotation policy would suggest Phillips will have opportunities to deputise for Rodri and take up the back-up role vacated by Fernandinho, yet there's no doubt he possesses the skillset to also play alongside the former Atletico Madrid midfielder as well.

    First and foremost, he's a more progressive player than Rodri. Over the past two seasons, 28 per cent of Phillips' passes have been forward, the exact same figure as Fernandinho and a fair bit more than Rodri's 20 per cent.

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