EPL

Tuchel 'surprised' by James call-up: Was he selected by England's water polo team?

By Sports Desk October 01, 2021

Thomas Tuchel does not expect Reece James to link up with the England squad next week, joking the defender will only be able to play water polo as he is still training in the swimming pool on his return from injury.

James was included in Gareth Southgate's 23-man squad on Thursday for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers with Andorra and Hungary, despite sustaining an ankle injury in the first half of the Blues' 1-0 defeat to Manchester City last week.

The 21-year-old subsequently sat out the Blues' 1-0 loss to Juventus in the Champions League in midweek and will play no part in Saturday's Premier League clash with Southampton.

Southgate called up James in the hope of using him in one of England's October fixtures, but Tuchel does not believe that will be possible.

"I was a bit surprised. I understand he was selected for the [England] football team but this will not happen," Tuchel said at a pre-match news conference on Friday. "My last information is he will not go. It can only be a misunderstanding.

"When I saw it, I thought maybe Reece goes with the water polo team for England as right now he trains only in the pool."

Southgate also called up fellow injured Chelsea player Mason Mount, who has sat out the Blues' last two matches, though Tuchel is more optimistic about the midfielder's chances of playing during international break.

"Mason is in the squad [to face Southampton], Mason is back. It was not a long injury, it was a minor injury. Obviously, a given he is nominated and he's happy to be and will give everything to do his best for the England squad."

While James and Mount were called up for England duty, Ben Chilwell was overlooked by Southgate due to a lack of playing time for Chelsea this season.

The former Leicester City player made just his third appearance of the campaign as a half-time substitute against Juventus and has yet to play a single minute in the league.

"It would have been nice for him to be selected," Tuchel said. "He has his own story. But I can understand and I'm sure that he knows he has to earn it. 

"He hasn't had had many minutes. Once he plays more for us he will have the chance to get selected [for England] again."

Chelsea welcome Southampton to Stamford Bridge seeking their first win over the Saints in four attempts in the league, with this their longest winless run in this fixture since between October 1990 and December 1993 (seven games).

Tuchel's men have lost back-to-back games in all competitions, having previously gone eight without defeat to begin the campaign, but the German coach is not reading too much into the quickfire losses to heavyweights City and Juve.

"We have not trained a lot. We used the days off instead for recovery," Tuchel said. "It's been business as usual. We always demand the very best no matter if we lose or win. 

"We hate to lose. We came back strong after losing two matches last season. We need to respect the quality of our opponents. 

"We missed a little step from 90 per cent to 100 per cent but we don't need to question ourselves deeply. We played two extremes. Now we play another high pressing team. 

"Losses don't feel good. Man City made us underperform. Now it gets tougher to play away games. We will not be the last team to lose against Juve."

Romelu Lukaku has scored nine times in 12 Premier League games against Southampton – only against West Ham has he scored as many – but he enters Saturday's clash without a goal in his last four matches for Chelsea.

The Belgium international has managed just two shots on target across those four fixtures but Tuchel feels it is down to other players in the Chelsea team to step up and help out the prolific striker. 

Tuchel said: "I think that football right now is about connection. I think he has this with Mount and [Mateo] Kovacic. Everyone else lacks it a little bit.

"We need to learn and adapt and create. There will always be matches like this against Juve where there is no place to go."

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