Thomas Tuchel left Saul Niguez out of Chelsea side to protect him after difficult start

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 (AP)
(AP)

Thomas Tuchel left Saul Niguez out of Chelsea’s win against Southampton for fear of further setting back his Stamford Bridge career.

And the Spain midfielder’s hopes of regular first-team football have now been hit by the resurgence of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley, who have forced their way into Tuchel’s plans.

Saul, a deadline-day loan signing from Atletico Madrid, has not played in the Premier League since being substituted after 45 torrid minutes of his Chelsea debut against Aston Villa last month.

And despite N’Golo Kante being ruled out by Covid-19 and Jorginho named on the bench for the 3-1 win against Southampton, the 26-year-old was again an unused substitute on Saturday.

Instead, Tuchel named Loftus-Cheek in his starting XI and brought on Barkley in the second half.

The Chelsea manager admitted he feared the impact on Saul if he endured another difficult match.

The German said: “He was very, very close to start. In the end I decided against him because I thought to put him in another high pressing match, against an opponent pressing so high in the centre of the pitch, would it be fair to say, ‘Okay now prove it and let’s see if your adaption has gone further?’

“I hesitated a little bit. He does not need to worry. Just work hard and adapt and the chances will come.

“We have only 11 to give a chance. I would like to see it in a positive way.

“If you turn it around of course you have eight players who we didn’t trust today from the beginning. This is a reality. I cannot hide from this reality.”

Loftus-Cheek and Barkley would both have been allowed to leave Chelsea this summer if moves could have been secured.

 (AP)
(AP)

But they are now back in the first-team picture after impressing Tuchel with their attitude and application in training.

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