Thomas Tuchel has admitted Chelsea’s preparations to host Liverpool on Sunday will include a “trial and error” selection process.
The frustrated Blues boss is left to count the continued injury and coronavirus toll in the wake of Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Brighton.
Reece James should miss out against title rivals Liverpool with a hamstring strain, and the extent of the England wing-back’s problem could prove pivotal to the Blues’ campaign.
Chelsea will sweat on Thiago Silva’s thigh issue and Andreas Christensen’s back problem – but also on a host of players still suffering lasting effects after contracting Covid-19, including Timo Werner.
Blues boss Tuchel said: “(Werner’s) not good, not in training. And that’s because of Covid.
“We don’t know any more at the moment, and nobody knows quite how the players (who have had Covid) will react.
“We play trial and error and see what we get.
“That’s why I’m protecting my team. We can play much better but we need a full squad over weeks and weeks.”
Romelu Lukaku made it two goals in two matches against Brighton – his first start in 10 weeks after ankle trouble and Covid isolation.
But Tuchel admitted he must continue to carefully monitor Lukaku’s continued recovery.
“I’m surprised with what he’s doing, actually very surprised,” Tuchel said.
“But I don’t know how long he can do it. We will see and we will try it but I don’t know.”
Danny Welbeck’s added-time header consigned Chelsea to a fourth draw in their last five home league matches as the Blues slipped eight points behind leaders Manchester City.
And Mason Mount admitted the nature of the Brighton draw left Chelsea feeling as though they had lost.
“When we draw late on like that it definitely does feel like a defeat,” the England international told Chelsea’s website.
“It’s two points dropped from being in a winning position for most of the game.
“I know that they made it very difficult and in the second half they were pushing and had more chances, but we still felt like we controlled it and we had chances of our own that we should have done better with.
“When they scored late on it was gutting.
“It’s a massive disappointment to lead the game so late on and then to concede at the worst time after putting so much into the game.
“It probably wasn’t our best performance but we were 1-0 up in the 90th minute, so we obviously felt like we could win the game and get through it, but they scored late on and it’s devastating for us after putting so much into it.”
Brighton boss Graham Potter hailed Welbeck not just for his goal but also for shaking off his long-term hamstring troubles to hit back to fitness and form.
“I’m so pleased for him, you have to fight through setbacks like he’s had and he’s done that,” Potter said.
“He’s been a top player around the place supporting his team-mates all the way through his injury. So he deserves this now.
“I think now he’s had the surgery and recovered he’s been able to clear his brain of that problem, which is really important for someone like Danny.”