There was a welcome sight at Cobham today as Thomas Tuchel once again involved Reece James in team training, with just one long-term absentee missing from the session.
James has not featured for the Blues since he suffered a hamstring injury in the draw with Brighton at Stamford Bridge on 29th December and has been in individual training in recent weeks.
His return gives the whole squad a huge boost ahead of Sunday’s Carabao Cup final at Wembley, in which Tuchel’s side will go after their fourth trophy of the German’s tenure – and his first taste of a domestic title.
With Mason Mount involved in the matchday squad on Tuesday, and Mateo Kovacic and Hakim Ziyech also both training despite being substituted against Lille, Thomas Tuchel has some key players at his disposal for this weekend's challenge against Liverpool.
Central midfield trio N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Ruben Loftus-Cheek all also trained, while the likes of Timo Werner, Romelu Lukaku and Thiago Silva were also involved in the session. Callum Hudson-Odoi also returned after missing the clashes with Crystal Palace and Lille with a minor injury.
James, sidelined since suffering a hamstring injury in December, has looked “very strong” since returning to full training, according to Thomas Tuchel.
Ziyech and Kovacic went off after picking up knocks during this week’s Champions League win over Lille but have also trained and been passed fit.
Blues boss Tuchel said he now faces a decision on whether to start with James. But it seems more likely that the England defender will be on the bench.
“We had training today with everybody out on the pitch except for Ben Chilwell, which is brilliant news,” Tuchel said on Friday afternoon.
“Both (Ziyech and Kovacic) are both okay since today. Everybody joined team training from the first to the last minute."
“We at the moment have had no (negative) reactions – but positive reactions. I hope it stays like this."
Tuchel said he will make a late decision on whether to select Edouard Mendy or Kepa in goal, declaring that Kepa had been “fantastic” in Mendy’s absence but that the head coach “cannot be sentimental” in his decision making.
James has not played since the 1-1 draw at Brighton on December 29 but Tuchel has been hugely impressed with him in training.
“He looked brilliant in the last two training sessions,” Tuchel said.
The German joked: “Let’s wait another session and then let’s see if I’m crazy enough to just put him on the pitch or if the reasonable side of me wins in the end and we go step by step. It would be a huge step (to start with James), but honestly, yesterday, he looked so strong, so confident and so involved in training that you are tempted to do it. Let’s see. We have a little bit of time. The most important thing is that he’s back and that he feels confident. It's just a day to go and then we will take the decision.”
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More Photos on James, Kovacic, and Ziyech training ahead of Sunday's clash