Chelsea’s Mauricio Pochettino is facing a significant challenge as the team prepares to face West London rivals Fulham. The Blues have been struggling with injuries throughout the season, and now suspensions are adding to the mix of issues being balanced by the head coach.
In midweek, Pochettino turned to an unorthodox backline that included Marc Cucurella at right-back, Axel Disasi and Levi Colwill acting as a new central pairing, and Ben Chilwell playing his first game of the season at left-back.
Chilwell, who was moved into defence after being used as a makeshift attacker for much of the season so far, is not fit to play due to a hamstring injury late in the Brighton clash. The club will assess the period of the injury in the next few days, but it doesn’t look good.
Pochettino will have to balance the addition of Silva, who has been instrumental in organizing and creating at the back, with the need for mobility. His inclusion in the squad and most likely the starting XI will be aided by Moises Caicedo in front of him. The midfield is no longer the point of concern for Pochettino despite missing summer signing Romero Lavia.
With Enzo Fernandez and Conor Gallagher rested for most of the midweek action, there is an option to rotate Lesley Ugochukwu out at Craven Cottage. Alex Matos, so impressive since arriving from Norwich and into the development squad, could get another call up for the squad.
Cracks have started to open on the frontline, with Pochettino reluctant to force Armando Broja back too soon. There is a double boost though with Pochettino hoping to call upon Carney Chukwuemeka and Noni Madueke, neither of which have played consistently this season.
For Chelsea, there are certainly ways to rejig the squad to fit what is needed, but none of those yet include Reece James or Christopher Nkunku, leaving a massive hole. For Fulham, it will be even harder due to the absence of Malo Gusto and Jackson on top of an already lengthy injury list that continues to grow.
For now, the issues just move from position to position across the field and keeping a settled group is becoming harder. What is for certain is going to be another youthful-looking group.