Thomas Tuchel says Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is hungry to play for Chelsea and prove a point ahead of his possible debut for the club in the Champions League.
Chelsea signed Aubameyang from Barcelona on Deadline Day, seven months after he was shown the door at Arsenal following off-the-fields issues with head coach Mikel Arteta.
Aubameyang suffered a fractured jaw during a break-in ahead of completing his switch to Stamford Bridge but travelled with the Chelsea squad to Croatia and trained wearing a protective face mask ahead of Tuesday’s Group E opener against Dinamo Zagreb.
Tuchel confirmed Aubameyang. could make his debut either from the start or from the bench against Dinamo and is relishing watching the 33-year-old prove his point as the spearhead of the Chelsea attack.
“We had the opportunity to take everybody who was available to Zagreb to do our last training here, that includes Denis [Zakaria] and [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang,” Tuchel told his pre-match press conference.
“Aubameyang had a test with his mask, felt fine, trained normal, so if everything goes well today, they will both be available.”
On Aubameyang, Tuchel continued: “He’s the sort of player [to thrive in adversity], he’s very ambitious, very focused, and he’s hungry to play for us and prove a point still.
“That’s why he’s here, that’s what we felt from the first moment and he’s happily invited to prove a point tomorrow.”
Asked whether Aubameyang had encountered any issues while training in his face mask, Tuchel replied: “If an issue will come up we will not play put him, of course, but there was no issue for him yesterday and I hope there will not be an issue today.
“Is he ready to start? Of course. But he cannot play 90 minutes, it’s about us taking a decision on how we manage the minutes. It’s clear he needs minutes to get his rhythm and fitness, so it is on us to find the solution if he comes from the bench or starts.”
Chelsea will be without defensive lynchpin Thiago Silva for their Champions League opener, with Tuchel confirming the Brazilian had not travelled with the squad to allow him to time to recover from their hectic start to the Premier League season.
“We decided with Thiago [Silva] he will have a break from the travelling, from the stress, he’s played every minute so far in very intense matches,” Tuchel said.
“It was the moment to give him a break instead of putting him on the bench and having the travel issues. He will take care of his recovery.”
Chelsea arrived in Zagreb in a buoyant mood after Saturday’s controversial 2-1 victory over London rivals West Ham was followed by the news wing-back Reece James had signed a new five-year contract to keep him at Stamford Bridge until 2027.
The England international has made 128 appearances for the Blues, scoring 10 goals, after coming through the Premier League club’s academy, and helped Chelsea win the Champions League in 2021.
“He’s a very decisive player for us,” Tuchel added. “He’s an academy player. We told you many times how important he is and I think his development is far from over.
“There is a lot for him to learn and a lot to come from him, but I’m happy to have a key player with us for so many years.”
Kovacic backs Aubameyang to thrive at Chelsea
Mateo Kovacic has tipped “proven goalscorer” Aubameyang to add vital firepower to Chelsea’s forward line.
Croatia midfielder Kovacic will be filled with pride to go up against his first and home club on Tuesday, but also hopes to see Aubameyang flourish in Chelsea blue.
“I can say he will be a big addition to us,” said Kovacic. “He’s a proper striker, a goalscorer, which we have missed.
“In the last years we haven’t had a 20, 25-goal striker that you need to win the title. So we’re looking forward to having him in our squad.
“He’s a proven goalscorer. It’s normal for him to score goals and I hope he will do it here at Chelsea also.”