Christian Pulisic delighted to be back as Chelsea push for top-four finish

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George Sessions, PA
·4-min read
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Christian Pulisic has insisted he is feeling good and confident despite a stop-start campaign for Chelsea so far.

The American was the Blues’ two-goal hero in the 4-1 win at Crystal Palace where Kai Havertz also starred.

A number of muscle injuries have restricted Pulisic’s game time this season, firstly under Frank Lampard while recent calf and hamstring issues have held him back since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival, but the 22-year-old took his tally for the week to three with a brace on Saturday.

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In a front trio with Havertz and Mason Mount, the Blues scored more than twice in a game for the first time since their German manager was appointed in January.

“It feels good to be back, back playing and I’m very confident right now, so I’m feeling good,” Pulisic told the official club website.

“We have a lot of dynamic players that we can get the ball to and switch sides. It can’t be easy to defend, I imagine. We showed that and it worked out really well.”

The 4-1 success helped Chelsea respond from their shock defeat to West Brom last time out in the Premier League and got them back on track in the race for the top four.

With only 12 league starts this season, Pulisic is eager to play a part in their battle to qualify for the Champions League again following a similar situation last term.

He added: “It’s going to be a good race. It was last season and we’re ready for the challenge.”

Boss Tuchel is keen for his players to also rise to the occasion when given opportunities like Pulisic and Havertz did in particular in south London.

Timo Werner and Tammy Abraham were restricted to unused substitute roles and Tuchel insisted: “Now is the time to fight for your place. If you have a place in the squad, now is the time to fight for your place on the pitch.

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“If you are on the pitch, now is the time to fight to stay there. This is the moment, this isn’t the moment for big changes. We didn’t make a lot of changes (at Crystal Palace) because we are in a race for the top four and we don’t judge games as more important.

“We go step-by-step and that’s easier to say than do but I felt we were absolutely focused and that’s what we demand.”

There were very few positives for Palace to take after another heavy defeat to a top-six team, but Christian Benteke did grab his sixth goal of the season with a consolation in the second half.

It was also a memorable day for teenager former Chelsea trainee Jesurun Rak-Sakyi, who was named among the substitutes for the first time.

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While the Palace Under-18s star failed to make it on the pitch, his spot on the bench was richly deserved according to his manager.

“He might be a little bit shocked by a lot of things that he saw during the course of the game, at half-time and afterwards so I’m not sure it was a great day to bring him in if I’m to be perfectly honest,” Roy Hodgson admitted.

“But it’s good that he’s there, because he’s there on merit. He’s done so well in the training sessions. When there was a position vacant among the 20 players we can nominate for the game, I think it was 100 per cent right to nominate him.

“I don’t honestly know what I could say he’s learned from it, you’d have to ask him. I wouldn’t be surprised, if he’s an honest man, if his answer was negative.”