Thomas Tuchel has backed Ben Chilwell to return after a difficult summer with England at Euro 2020 that left him "mentally tired".
The left-back has endured a difficult few months after starting for Chelsea in the Champions League final against Manchester City in May.
He hasn’t played a single minute of competitive football since, as he was an unused member of Gareth Southgate’s England squad and has lost his place in the Chelsea XI to Marcos Alonso.
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Alonso even captained Chelsea in their 3-0 win against Aston Villa on Saturday.
“It has absolutely been difficult for him and I think it is pretty normal,” said Chelsea manager Tuchel ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Zenit St Petersburg.
“He came from a Champions League win and from a 90 minutes and a strong performance and had a good end of the season and played a lot of minutes for us and many important, crucial games on a high level. Then it was individually for him, personally, a tough Euros because there were chances I think where he thought he could have played. He did not.
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"So, personally, I know that it was a tough one because you feel he did everything to push the team. You feel a part of the team, but you don’t feel it really if you don’t sweat it out on the pitch and you never wear the shirt and you are never really involved, it is a strange feeling.
“It was necessary to keep training for four, five weeks continuously. Then he had a personal break and it was hard for him to totally relax and to get his personal disappointment off the shoulders.”
Chilwell saw Kieran Trippier and Luke Shaw start ahead of him at the Euros as England made the final.
His chances of featuring weren’t helped by having to self-isolate for 10 days after coming in close contact with Chelsea team-mate Billy Gilmour, who tested positive for Covid-19 during the tournament. He then returned late for pre-season with Chelsea as England made it to the final.
“When he arrived here I felt him mentally tired,” said Tuchel. “Still worrying about the situation and at the same time he had to accept. He was very unlucky – also now during the start of the season because Marcos was here the whole pre-season.
“We did every single training session and he took this opportunity so great and with such huge quality and attitude, so Marcos was crucial for us from the first day of training and then he delivered in Chilly’s position and these are two specialists for the same position, so this is a tough competition for both of them.
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“We had some talks with Chilly about the situation. He knows that I would have done the same thing the other way around – to trust him if he was here and showed this kind of personality and attitude like Marcos did.
“This is where we are now and unfortunately we only had three substitutes in the last matches in the Premier League otherwise we would have made him play some minutes. But he is in the race now. The situation has changed for him. He is in good shape, in mental shape, attitude and good shape on the pitch so he can play any minute.”
Chelsea travel to Tottenham in the Premier League on Sunday as they look to continue their unbeaten start to the season.
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