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Tuchel's Brighton anger cannot be repeated for Chelsea to match Liverpool and Arsenal challenge

Football London logo Football London 18/01/2022 Scott Trotter

Chelsea last played Brighton less than a month ago but the Blues have already played five matches since that evening at Stamford Bridge.

Everything remains the same and everything is different all at once. The schedule is still rampant, injuries present and questions are being asked about how to get the best out of the Blues.

The Seagulls more than earned their point in late December, despite the dramatic nature of Danny Welbeck's stoppage time goal. Thomas Tuchel is under no illusion of the task that lies ahead of his side.

The 48-year-old said: "The challenge, the match itself and the opponent is a big challenge, because it's tough to play Brighton. I've personally never played there, but see a lot of matches.

"And of course, we had two home matches against Brighton, where it's a very unique style of play, a strong squad, strong coach with strong belief in what they are doing. There are a lot of things we need to be aware of and what we need to do in the best level possible.

"So, it's the third away match now, in a row, and we're still only two days after the match at City. So it's still a mix between recovery and preparing the match tomorrow because I truly believe we need all our mental and physical capacity to be able to win, and of course, we want to win, and we're expecting a tough match."

It was a similarly tight turnaround the last time the team's faced off, with the Blues' squad pushed to the brink.

Reece James lined up on the left to give Marcos Alonso a break, and possibly in preparation to take on Mo Salah against Liverpool in the following match. The wing-back of course came off injured in the first period.

Andreas Christensen joined him at half time, with Thiago Silva already absent from the game.

Between injuries piling up and criticism of VAR, Tuchel formed a fiery figure in his post-match press conference. His title race frustrations were clear as the Blues recorded their third draw in four games.

Tuchel said: "How should we be in it? We have seven Covid cases. We have five or six players out for six or more weeks. How should we compete in a title race?"

The only thing the German coach appeared to take much solace was Romelu Lukaku scoring in consecutive matches. Just 24 hours later a certain interview started circulating.

The end of 2021 perhaps brought Tuchel's toughest moment as Chelsea boss.

While the next result was a draw against Liverpool, in Lukaku's absence the Blues were galvanised and the squad provided the former Borussia Dortmund boss with all the backing he needed.

January has since seen wins over Tottenham in the Carabao Cup semi-final, a win in the FA Cup over Chesterfield and defeat to Manchester City.

Tuchel's side lie third in the Premier League with Spurs even able to overtake Chelsea providing they win their four matches in hand. Liverpool sit two points ahead with a game in hand, and Man City 13 points clear.

Yet, the 48-year-old cut a relaxed figure in his press conference ahead of the game, as he often does. He was philosophical on his thoughts on the title race, admitting that concession and ambition would leave him open to criticism.

In many ways Chelsea's position has become clear, and it's where it always was. They must perform as well as they can in the Premier League and win as many trophies as possible.

Heading to the latter part of January, the Blues enter a crucial moment in the season before the Club World Cup.

Brighton, Spurs and Plymouth Argyle await, and three wins are required to fix the Blues' momentum. After welcoming Antonio Conte back to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea will have a month without a Premier League match.

When they return their position in the Premier League may look more precarious. The likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and more will hope to take advantage.

They must leave for the UAE secure in the knowledge of their quality and ready to take on Premier League and Champions League duties upon their return.

Going off of recent meetings, Brighton could well pose the great danger to that.

Graham Potter's side dominated large parts of December's game with Yves Bissouma playing particularly well. The midfielder is unavailable due to AFCON on this occasion and Chelsea's midfield quality must make sure to make the difference.

A large part of Chelsea's defensive availability was hit in the last outing against the Seagulls, and the same issues still exist. The Blues' absentee list produces a solid back five with James, Christensen, Trevoh Chalobah, Ben Chilwell and Edouard Mendy unavailable.

The schedule has proved problematic, even for a squad as big as Chelsea's, but the next two matches will prove crucial in focusing the perception of Chelsea's form.

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