‘Suffering’ Pulisic must rise to Chelsea challenge amid key absences

The USA international has not featured for the Blues since the opening day of the season and, although Saturday’s visit to Newcastle is likely to come too soon for the winger to start, his return coincides with the absence of injured forwards Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner.

Back in April, ahead of the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid, an in-form Pulisic said he was confident his persistent injury problems were behind him, but this season has been another test of the 23-year-old’s patience.

An impressive performance in the European Super Cup triumph over Villarreal was followed by a goal on the opening day of the season against Crystal Palace, suggesting Pulisic was ready to establish himself as one of the Premier League’s leading lights and a star of Chelsea’s title tilt.

But he tested positive for Covid-19 shortly afterwards before suffering an ankle injury against Honduras while on international duty. He has not played since.

Pulisic’s challenge now is not only to force his way into a star-studded Chelsea first team but to prove he is not another exciting talent whose career will be blighted by injuries.

He has suffered 11 different ones since joining the Blues in January 2019, missing nearly 350 days in total, and his time in London has followed a pattern of promising spells or moments punctuated by frustrating setbacks.

His style as a quick and skilful forward has made his recoveries harder, according to Tuchel, who last week said the American was “really suffering” on the sidelines.

“Once these players with quick movements like Christian, once they feel this pain and they are not free in the movement, the recovery is not happening,” the German said.

“You start all over again and you reach a certain point and the pain comes back. And you have to do a little pause and start all over again.

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“He is very impatient, of course, and he does everything and we can see him suffer in every meeting,” he added. “And every time we meet him here [at Cobham] he is really suffering and wants to be on the pitch and help us. Everybody is doing their very best. Unfortunately, the injury takes its time.”

Kai Havertz, who scored for the second time in three matches on Tuesday, is set to deputise up front, while Lukaku and Werner are sidelined, with their prognoses yet unknown.

If Pulisic can pick up where he left off in August, he will like his own chances of making the most of their absence, provided he remains fit.

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