Chelsea: Tuchel opens up on Kante's injury struggles
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Chelsea travel to face Barnsley in their fifth-round FA Cup clash on Thursday as Thomas Tuchel makes his first foray into the competition. The manager has said he will rotate players after three successive Premier League wins in a four-match unbeaten run since he took charge. Here, Express Sport looks at the likely line-up for the trip to Oakwell.
Goalkeeper – Kepa Arrizabalaga
Eduoard Mendy has established himself as Chelsea’s No1 since signing from Rennes in the summer transfer window.
But Tuchel will give error-prone Kepa a chance to impress between the sticks against Barsnley.
Asked whether Kepa can revive his career in west London, Tuchel told reporters on Wednesday: “Absolutely. He will start tomorrow.”
The manager added: “The good thing for him is that we start fresh, it’s a new start for him. I don’t have a history with him and I hope there will be no difficulties because I don’t see them coming.”
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Defence – Zouma, Christensen, Rudiger
Tuchel will stick with the three-man defence which has served him so well in his four matches in charge so far.
Thiago Silva will miss the game as he continues to receover from a thigh injury, while Cesar Azpilicueta could be rested after being ever present since Tuchel took charge.
That would give Kurt Zouma his first chance to impress the new boss, with the 26-year-old having last played in the FA Cup win over Luton.
Zouma would play alongside Andreas Rudiger and Antonio Rudiger as they continue to revive their Chelsea careers.
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Midfield – James, Kante, Gilmour, Chilwell
Tuchel has confirmed he will start N’Golo Kante for the first time, having preferred Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic in his first four games.
Kante could be partnered by 19-year-old Billy Gilmour, who is yet to feature at all under the new manager.
Marcos Alonso could be restored to the left-wing back role after making way for Ben Chilwell last time out.
And Tuchel can choose from Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi at right wing-back, but could opt to give the latter a rest.
Attack – Ziyech, Abraham, Pulisic
The manager has confirmed that Hakim Ziyech will face Barnsley, with the winger having missed Chelsea’s last three games.
Ziyech has struggled for form since recovering from a hamstring injury, but Tuchel said he had impressed in training ahead of Thursday’s game.
Christian Pulisic could start on the opposite flank to Ziyech after missing the weekend win over Sheffield United.
And Tammy Abraham may be given the chance to lead the line after being on the bench for the last two matches.
Chelsea expected XI vs Barnsley: Kepa; Zouma, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Kante, Gilmour, Alonso; Ziyech, Pulisic; Abraham.
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