Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could make his debut for Chelsea in Tuesday’s opening Champions League group game at Dinamo Zagreb despite suffering a fractured jaw during a home invasion.
Chelsea made a deadline-beating swoop for Aubameyang last week, signing the forward on a two-year contract from Barcelona just months after he left Arsenal.
The 33-year-old missed Chelsea’s controversial 2-1 win over West Ham on Saturday but has travelled with the squad to Croatia.
“Auba is very ambitious, he’s very focused and he’s hungry to play for us, and he is hungry to prove a point. That’s why he’s here,” Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel told reporters on Monday.
Aubameyang will be fitted with a custom-made mask to protect his jaw that was broken during an assault by a group of four men who broke into his home near Barcelona and threatened him with firearms.
“If an issue comes up with the mask today we will not put him in of course, but there was no issue for him yesterday and I hope there will not be an issue today,” said Tuchel.
“If he is ready to start he cannot play 90 minutes so it is on us to take a decision how we manage the minutes.
“That he needs minutes to get his full fitness is clear so it’s on us to find the solution if he is on the bench or if he starts.”
Switzerland midfielder Denis Zakaria is also in line for his first Chelsea appearance following his arrival on loan from Juventus.
However N’Golo Kante is still sidelined by a hamstring problem, while veteran centre-back Thiago Silva has been rested for the trip.
“We decided with Thiago that he will have a break from travelling and from the stress after he has played every minute so far in very intense matches,” explained Tuchel.
“It was the moment to give him a break instead of putting him on the bench and he has to travel. He can take care of his recovery.”
‘Cannot rely only on Haaland’
Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola said Monday the team cannot rely on Erling Haaland to single-handedly win them the Champions League this season following his remarkable start to life in England.
The Norway striker has scored 10 goals in his first six Premier League games since his £51 million ($58 million) move from Borussia Dortmund this summer.
“All the players who come here were brought here by the club to make us better, that makes sense,” said Guardiola ahead of Tuesday’s opening group game away to Sevilla.
“If we rely on Erling’s shoulders, we will not win the Champions League.”
City reached the semi-finals of last season’s competition before an astonishing comeback from Real Madrid cost them a shot at winning a first European title.
The Premier League champions have brought in England midfielder Kalvin Phillips, Argentine striker Julian Alvarez and defenders Manuel Akanji and Sergio Gomez to strengthen the squad.
However the capture of Haaland was the headline deal, and one that Guardiola hopes can inspire City to the trophy in Istanbul next June.
“Hopefully, we can do it,” said Guardiola.
“He came here because we convinced him. We didn’t have strikers and he felt he could play with us.
“He has settled well, like with Julian and the other new players.
“I understand completely why everyone is talking about Erling but I have six new players and I want them to settle as quickly as possible.
“We won’t win just because of Erling but he has a special talent, and he can help us solve problems, definitely. But if we don’t play well, we will not win.”
City will be without defensive pair Kyle Walker and John Stones against Sevilla.
Walker limped off towards the end of Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Aston Villa, while Stones also picked up a minor knock.
“(They are) injured. John is not much. Kyle is not much too, but I don’t know if he will be ready for Saturday, or Dortmund or Wolves before the international break,” said Guardiola.