Chelsea’s players were given a much-deserved day off by Thomas Tuchel yesterday.
It was an opportunity for many within the squad to switch off mentally for 24 hours and rest their weary bodies.
Others currently out injured, meanwhile, will have undertaken recovery work at Cobham.
The Blues’ absentee list has swelled over the past ten days. Ahead of the visit of Malmo in the Champions League last week, Christian Pulisic was the only player ruled out.
But Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner both sustained injuries against the Swedish side.
N’Golo Kante then picked up a small muscle problem in training.
And ahead of the Carabao Cup clash with Southampton on Tuesday, Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were all ruled out for various reasons.
“Azpi [Azpilicueta] has a shoulder injury after a little accident in training [on Monday],” Tuchel said after Chelsea’s penalty-shootout win against the Saints.
“He fell on his shoulder and it’s very painful. But he’s Azpi and he is a tough guy.
Andreas [Christensen] needed urgent surgery on his tooth [after a collision in training] and he should be back if there are no complications on Thursday.
And Ruben [Loftus-Cheek] felt some pain in his hip joint after training.”
There is hope at Chelsea that Kante, Christensen, Azpilicueta and Loftus-Cheek will all be available for this Saturday’s trip to Newcastle United.
The match is an opportunity for the Blues to further set the pace at the top of the Premier League table; Tuchel’s side are a single point clear after nine matches
Yet it won’t be easy, trips to Tyneside never seem to be for Chelsea.
The Blues have won just two of their last eight visits to St James’ Park in the top flight.
Throw in the feel-good factor that remains from Newcastle’s recent takeover and that the game will be the first home match since Steve Bruce’s departure and there are plenty of reasons for Tuchel to be wary.
So the German will have to pick his side wisely. There can be no slip-ups.
And here are fours players we believe must start on Saturday.
Chelsea’s injury issues meant the Brazilian didn’t get Tuesday night off, but he was an unused substitute against Southampton and so will be fresh to take on Newcastle.
Silva has started six games for the Blues in all competitions this term and in those Chelsea have conceded just one goal in open play; Federico Chiesa’s thunderous strike for Juventus in the Champions League.
The 37-year-old has been near-flawless when called upon by Tuchel, both this season and last, and his experience could be vital in ensuring the Blues claim a strangely rare win on Tyneside.
What a difference a month can make. August and September were far from easy for Chilwell as he lost his place in the Chelsea starting XI having returned late for pre-season due to his involvement with England at Euro 2020.
He had to remain patient, had to wait for Marcos Alonso’s form to dip. And when handed an opportunity, Chilwell had to take it.
He has done so, rather spectacularly.
The 24-year-old has scored in each of his three Premier League outings this term and the only goal conceded in those was James Ward-Prowse’s penalty at the start of October as Chelsea beat Southampton 3-1 at Stamford Bridge.
He did feature in the second half on Tuesday night, as a right wing-back no less, but Chilwell must be restored to his position on the opposite flank at St James’ Park.
In the opening weeks of the campaign, it was difficult to escape the feeling that Jorginho looked a little fatigued.
Given his involvement and importance to Italy at Euro 2020, perhaps that was no great surprise.
Fortunately for Chelsea, the midfielder now looks back to his best.
He netted twice against Malmo – both from the penalty spot – and then grabbed an assist for Mason Mount in the 7-0 thrashing of Norwich last weekend.
Like Silva, Jorginho was an unused substitute for the midweek Carabao Cup win and so should be fit and ready to take on the Magpies.
His intelligence and influence in possession are likely to be vital in keeping the home supporters subdued.
The academy graduate is perhaps Chelsea’s most in-form player.
He was robbed of an assist in the Premier League meeting against Southampton by VAR, but then teed up a goal for Kai Havertz against Malmo and struck Chelsea’s second in the trouncing of Norwich.
The growing injury list meant he played more than half of the Carabao Cup clash with Southampton at right wing-back but he was moved to the left of the attack early into the second period and, unsurprisingly, had far greater influence.
It’s taken some time for Tuchel to trust Hudson-Odoi but the academy graduate is confident, playing well, and deserves another opportunity to impress in his favoured role.