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Champions League

Chelsea still hoping Thomas Tuchel can travel to Abu Dhabi for Club World Cup final against Palmeiras


Chelsea are still hoping that Thomas Tuchel will be able to travel to Abu Dhabi in time for their Club World Cup final against Palmeiras.

Tuchel tested positive for Covid-19 at the end of last week and has been isolating in the interim, meaning he has not been able to take part in Chelsea’s Club World Cup campaign so far.

Having beaten AFC Champions League holders Al Hilal in the semi-finals on Wednesday, the Blues will face Brazilian giants Palmeiras in the final on Saturday afternoon. First-team coach Zsolt Low presided over the win against Al Hilal and, if Tuchel is unable to make it to the final, he will continue to act as stand-in manager at the weekend.

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In his pre-match press conference on Friday morning, Low said: “We still have 30 hours until the game. We still hope [Tuchel] can come and enjoy the group and the final as soon as possible.

“He is following the rules and getting tested. There is a lot of time. Any test he does could be negative. We hope this happens in the next hours.

“Thomas absolutely thinks he can be there, and the team and the whole staff want him to come for the final.

“We hope he can come but, if he cannot, we are still well prepared. We have had a lot of meetings. We had a video conference after the first game analysing it, and seeing what we can do better and what problems we had.

“We are absolutely clear what happened in the first game and what we have to do better in the second game.”

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Tuchel’s coaching staff face a difficult decision over which goalkeeper to select against Palmeiras, with Edouard Mendy back in contention having returned from a triumphant Africa Cup of Nations campaign with Senegal. Kepa Arrizabalaga has equipped himself well in Mendy’s absence, making a couple of crucial saves against Al Hilal as Chelsea held onto their narrow 1-0 lead.

Asked who would start between the sticks against Palmeiras, Low said: “We are very happy with both goalkeepers.

“It’s a good, comfortable situation to have two goalkeepers like this. When Edou couldn’t be with the team, Kepa stepped up and brought big performances.

“Now Edou is back, he is fresh. Now he is fully involved in yesterday’s training and training later today. We are very happy he is healthy. He is in good shape with good experience behind him, and he is absolutely ready to play the game [if selected].

“We have to take this decision tonight or latest tomorrow. We talk to Thomas about it, we talk with the goalkeeper coaches, and we will make the final decision tomorrow, some hours before the game.

“Whoever sits on the bench has nothing to be worried or sad about. Both goalkeepers have had big performances in the last weeks, and that’s why it’s just a decision for this game.”

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