Chelsea’s 6-0 thrashing of Southampton was the perfect tonic to back-to-back defeats for the Blues to Brentford and then Real Madrid. After hammering the Saints, Chelsea travel to Madrid for the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final second leg on Tuesday.
And Thomas Tuchel has been given things to think about for the trip to the Bernabeu after the rout of the Saints, in which Mason Mount and Timo Werner helped themselves to braces alongside Marcos Alonso and Kai Havertz’s goals.
Havertz is in strong form with seven goals in his last nine Chelsea games, having headed in the Blues’ only goal against Real Madrid at Stamford Bridge. And he is one of the surefire starters for the trip to Spain.
But it is not quite as straightforward for Werner, whose two goals were his first in the league since scoring at home to Southampton on October 2. Tuchel’s first words on Werner post-match were: “He could have scored more. He had huge chances and a lot of chances.”
Chelsea fan and Arsenal legend Paul Merson said similarly on Sky Sports News: “Werner was great today. He’s got electric pace. He scored his hardest chance… What he does is he stretches the game.”
The £49million forward can be a frustrating figure given the numbers he produced at RB Leipzig in Germany. Tuchel must decide whether Chelsea can afford similar profligacy at Real Madrid when the first goal is sure to be vital.
But the German will surely back Werner – who scored the first goal in the semi-final second-leg meeting with Los Blancos last May. Christian Pulisic’s below-par first-leg display makes Hakim Ziyech the likeliest rival to Werner for the third attacking spot next to Mount and Havertz.
With the excellent Eder Militao unavailable for the hosts, Nacho should start at centre-back alongside David Alaba. And though Tuchel will be weighing up whether he can afford Werner to miss chances, when a Pulisic might be more prolific, his general all-around performance at St Mary’s should see the pacey attacker start.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek was another player who impressed in the 6-0 win in an unusual right wing-back role, with Cesar Azpilicueta absent with Covid and Reece James rested. And Tuchel must decide whether or not he can find a spot in the team for Loftus-Cheek.
Even though Azpilicueta will surely miss the second leg, James is almost a certainty to return to the side. Despite that Loftus-Cheek was sharp and an offensive asset as he burst forward on the ball at Southampton.
Unfortunately for the midfielder it’s expected N’Golo Kante will partner Mateo Kovacic or Jorginho in the middle, but Loftus-Cheek has at least given Tuchel something to think about. Given some of Chelsea’s recent performances, might the manager be inclined to start those who impressed in the last match?
It’s possible James could play at left wing-back or centre-back to allow Loftus-Cheek to start there but that would mean sacrificing one of Alonso, Thiago Silva, Antonio Rudiger or Andreas Christensen. Most likely then, despite an improved showing, Loftus-Cheek will be forced to miss out unless Tuchel springs a surprise.
But with five substitutions in the Champions League, he still has a strong chance of being involved over in Spain. Chelsea will hope desperately that if Werner and the midfielder are involved, in whichever capacity that is, they can be as effective as they were at St Mary’s.
They’ll need top performances across the pitch if they are to produce what would be one of the greatest triumphs in the two-time European champions’ history.