After a seemingly endless absence, Christian Pulisic’s long-awaited return was confirmed by Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel on Tuesday evening ahead of their visit to Malmö in Champions League play.
The American star has been missing for club and country since early-September, after suffering an ankle injury in the team’s victory at Honduras on September 9.
With questions swirling about whether his absence would continue through the upcoming international break, where the USA faces a crucial test against Mexico, Tuchel sprung a surprise in Tuesday evening’s pre-game press conference.
While addressing the absences of several players for Chelsea’s trip north to Malmö, he threw in a welcome nugget of information, stating “the good news is that Christian Pulisic is back in the squad for tomorrow.”
This was later confirmed on the team’s official social media channels, which showed the American in transit with the team, and on their website, “Christian Pulisic is part of the travelling group, as he continues his own return from injury, meaning he could be involved for the first time since the win over Crystal Palace in August.”
Even though they are currently in line for a place in the knockout round, Chelsea do need to secure a win against the Swedish champions to provide some measure of security. This could, in the best case, open up a nearly unassailable six-point gap ahead of Zenit St. Petersburg in the likely case that Juventus prevails against the Russians in Turin in the other group game.
With Chelsea missing a trio of front-line attackers due to injury and illness, namely Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Mason Mount, along with central midfielders Mateo Kovačić and N’Golo Kante, it is highly likely that the American will see significant time in the game, if not land in the starting lineup.
A draw would, at worst, still leave them in the drivers’ seat with two games remaining in group play, however with a tough visit from leaders Juventus awaiting on November 23, they will be eager to wrap things up early in Sweden.
Any appearance in Tuesday’s game in Malmö or Chelsea’s subsequent home game against Burnley on the weekend would all but ensure Pulisic’s inclusion in Gregg Berhalter’s squad for the upcoming games against Mexico and Jamaica.
The Champions League match on Tuesday gets underway at 6:45pm Central European Time, one of the two early kickoffs of the round, in Malmö’s Eleda Stadion.