Chelsea are without a recognised striker after Thomas Tuchel confirmed Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner will both miss “some matches” after their injuries against Malmo.
The pair were both forced off before half-time in Chelsea’s 4-0 Champions League win on Wednesday night, with Lukaku the victim of a horror challenge from Lasse Nielsen before Werner pulled up off the ball clutching his hamstring.
In their absence, the makeshift strike pairing of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Kai Havertz made their own case for starting in Chelsea’s next game with Norwich on Saturday lunchtime, combining for the Blues’ third which was assuredly slotted home by the German.
With five games to come over the next 17 days Tuchel will be glad the Blues’ opponents do not include a side in the top half of the Premier League and in Europe, the only team they will face is a return game against Wednesday’s beaten opponents Malmo.
Having told reporters on Tuesday Lukaku was mentally and physically fatigued having been “overplayed” on international duty, Tuchel said he did not regret starting the Belgian against a side Chelsea had been roundly expected to beat ahead of kick-off.
“If I knew before I wouldn’t have done it. But you can’t know it before and it was necessary that he was on the pitch and he started very strong,” he said. “I spoke with him about the situation, that I think he carries a bit of mental fatigue around with him. I think that is also normal but he is our number nine and is our reference upfront.
“It’s not a muscle injury or because of physical fatigue. He is a little bit overplayed, this is my opinion and maybe I’m not even right. But this was a moment to give him confidence and let him play. I don’t regret it, things like this can happen. It was bad luck.
“Romelu twisted his ankle with the foul in the box and Timo has a hamstring injury. It will take a while for both of them. We need more examinations to be more precise but they will be out for some matches.”
Despite the relative strength of their opponents and Chelsea’s busy schedule, Tuchel’s line-up to face Malmo was not far off his strongest and after their disappointing defeat in Juventus in their previous European encounter, the head coach emphasised the importance of every game in the competition as the Blues look to retain their crown.
He said: “We take the games step by step, there is no more important game than the game we play on this day. Jorgi [Jorginho] didn’t play against Brentford, we went with Ruben (Loftus-Cheek) who was there during the international break.
“The guys on the pitch deserve to start, there are no gifts or resting players because the next game is more important. We pick the best line-up in our belief to have the best chance to beat Brentford and then we pick the best line-up on this day to beat whoever arrives in a Champions League match.”
Hudson-Odoi and Havertz operated as a strike pairing for the first time in their careers, with early signs of chemistry building between the two evident in the manner of Chelsea’s third goal. Hudson-Odoi drove from midfield before finding Havertz’s run with an excellent through ball which he fired home in style.
Tuchel said: “Always, always a chance and it is always necessary to prove a point. They can prove a point now so we will have some games without Romelu and Timo so everyone is invited to join the race for minutes on the pitch.
“When they are on the pitch, they need to show their hunger and determination to be decisive and be in the box.
“This is how it is and they did it today but there’s still room to improve and on Saturday we need the same hunger and determination from whoever starts for us because we need goals to win matches. We need to find solutions without Romelu and Timo, that’s clear. Everyone will join the race to be decisive for us.”