Saul

Thomas Tuchel has explained why Saul Niguez has not played for Chelsea in the Premier League since being hooked at half-time during his nightmare debut for the Blues against Aston Villa.

The Spain international midfielder was brought to Stamford Bridge on transfer deadline day on an initial loan agreement from Atletico Madrid.

Saul was thrust straight into Tuchel’s starting XI against Villa on September 11, but saw just 45 minutes of action and has played only 76 more since then against the same opponents in the Carabao Cup.

Asked about why Saul has not been used in top-flight competition since making his debut, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley favoured in the 3-1 win over Southampton last time out, Tuchel said: “He was very, very close to start.

“In the end I decided against him because I thought to put him in another high pressing match, against an opponent pressing so high in the centre of the pitch, would it be fair to say, ‘Okay now prove it and let’s see if your adaption has gone further?’

“I hesitated a little bit. He does not need to worry. Just work hard and adapt and the chances will come. We have only 11 to give a chance. I would like to see it in a positive way.

“If you turn it around of course you have eight players who we didn’t trust today from the beginning. This is a reality. I cannot hide from this reality.”

The 26-year-old playmaker has not been included in the latest Spain squad, so has the international break to focus on his club career.

He faces fierce competition for places in west London, but he is a Europa League and La Liga title winner who made 340 appearances for Atletico before heading to England.

Chelsea’s next game, when they will be looking to cement their place at the top of the Premier League table, will come against Brentford on October 16.

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