Chelsea feel vaccine-enforced absence of Kanté and Loftus-Cheek on US tour

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The Guardian

Thomas Tuchel has admitted the absence of N’Golo Kanté and Ruben Loftus-Cheek from Chelsea’s pre-season tour of the United States because of their Covid vaccination status is “far from ideal” as they prepare for the new Premier League campaign.

Neither midfielder travelled with the squad when they flew out to Los Angeles last weekend because entry rules for the US say all foreign visitors over 18 must be double-vaccinated. While it is unclear whether the two players are unvaccinated or had received only one dose, both Kanté and Loftus-Cheek tested positive for Covid-19 at the start of last season.

Tuchel said at the time he did not know how many of his players had been vaccinated but that he would not force them to have the injections. However, the Chelsea manager has acknowledged that the absence of Kanté and Loftus-Cheek has left a big hole in his preparation plans.

“We cannot force. It is at the moment a very normal decision to get vaccinated. Both players took the decision not to,” said Tuchel. “We need to follow the rules. They cannot join us. They know about the consequences. We don’t like it. Of course not. We would love to have them here and it’s not an ideal solution. Far from ideal.

“But once the situation is like this you need to come up with a solution. So they have their coaches there. They train with the under-23s. Then they go with the under-19s to not be completely not in a group. But it will not compensate. It will not be the same.”

Ruben Loftus-Cheek has remained in England where he is training with Chelsea under-21s and under-19s. Photograph: Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC/Getty Images

Asked if players’ vaccination status came into his thinking when looking at transfers, Tuchel added: “I knew some players who I would also take without vaccination. I have to say. But yes, it is a part of daily life at the moment.”

Kanté also missed a portion of last season with a knee injury and started only 21 games in the Premier League. Tuchel is hopeful the France midfielder can integrate quickly with the main squad once they return. He said: “For N’Golo it is maybe not even the worst thing to do. So we can give him a very individual load. So maybe we can turn a disadvantage into an advantage. I don’t think he in particular needs a long time to adapt to our game because N’Golo is N’Golo and everybody is aware that he is a key player and needs to be a key player if you want to win big stuff.”

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Tuchel also said he was keen to tie down the 31-year-old to a new contract, with less than 12 months remaining on his present deal. Chelsea lost both Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rüdiger last month after their terms expired, and asked whether resolving Kanté’s situation this summer remained a major priority, he said: “It is, but I want a lot of things. Not all things become reality but everybody is aware of the situation with not only N’Golo but also Jorginho. We knew about the situation with Andreas and Toni and we don’t want this. So we are on it to solve it in the best interests of the club.”

July 17, 2022 at 03:24AM Ed Aarons in Los Angeles

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