Football Features

Can Chelsea cope without Tammy Abraham after injury scare?

By Harry Edwards

Published: 20:05, 27 November 2019

Chelsea look like they may need to learn to survive without Tammy Abraham, after he lasted just 45 minutes of their 2-2 draw with Valencia.

In the build up to the game, a lot of focus had been put on Abraham and whether he would deliver in what was being described as Chelsea’s biggest game of the season so far.

The Blues knew that a win in Valencia would see them secure a spot in the last-16 of the Champions League with a game to spare, while defeat would put the odds against them.

Prior to the game, Abraham himself said: “We know this is our biggest game of the season so far but training hasn’t been different.

“No one’s been acting different, weird, we’ve all been enjoying training, focused and we always want to win in training.

“Obviously coming after the loss at Man City, we were all disappointed and we knew we had to pick ourselves up because we knew we had another massive game coming up.

“So, for us, we’ll all be in game mode and we’ll all have to give our best performance to win that game. I’m sure all of us know what’s coming so we’ll be ready.”

The Englishman had scored 11 goals in 19 games going into Wednesday evening’s match, starting life as Chelsea’s first-choice striker well. However, there were still criticism.

This season, Chelsea have faced teams in England’s ‘Big Six’ on five occasions – going up against Manchester United and Liverpool twice in addition to Manchester City.

Abraham failed to register a goal in those games and often found himself struggling, famously missing the deciding penalty in Chelsea’s shootout defeat to Liverpool in the Uefa Super Cup final. But this is not something that was bothering Abraham going into the Valencia clash.

“Coming up against great teams there are going to be less chances in the game,” he added.

“That’s something you have to be ready for. When that chance comes I have to grab it with both hands. I’m not worried about it. Every team in the Premier League or Champions League is a strong team. Scoring goals against anyone I would celebrate it like it’s the World Cup final.”

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Like most games he takes part in, Abraham was on the periphery at the Mestalla, but did have a few chances to test Jasper Cillessen in the Valencia goal. His first game in the 14th minute through a wonderful cross from Reece James, but the English forward just couldn’t get enough on the ball to divert it towards goal.

His best effort came just over 20 minutes later, as Abraham showed wonderful improvisation to connect to another James cross. This time the shot was on target but Cillessen did wonderfully to deny the Englishman.

Unfortunately for Abraham that would be his last real contribution of the match as a tangle with Ezequiel Garay resulted in the Englishman injuring his hip. Abraham managed to get up but looked in serious pain as he walked off the pitch and eventually had to be carried away on a stretcher as the half-time whistle went. A bad end to Abraham’s 150th senior game.

The Englishman was replaced on the night by Michy Batshuayi, returning to the Mestalla after his poor loan spell last season. But can the Belgian replace Abraham on a longer term if the injury is serious?

Prior to the Valencia game Batshuayi had scored five goals in 270 minutes of action for Chelsea this season, averaging 54 minutes per strike. Three of those did come in the Carabao Cup, including two in a 7-1 thrashing of Grimsby Town, but Batshuayi has proven he can do it on the big stage.

In Chelsea’s third game of Champions League Group H, the Blues looked to be heading to a goalless draw against Ajax having been frustrated by a stern defence.

Trying to change Chelsea’s fortune, Frank Lampard brought Batshuayi on for Abraham with 20 minutes to go. Fifteen minutes later the Blues took the lead through the Belgian, who slammed the ball past Andre Onana from Christian Pulisic’s pass.

But against Valencia, Batshuayi endured a quiet game. He looked isolated up front, managing just 15 touches, and when Chelsea were searching for a winning goal late on, he could only test Cillessen with a deflected effort.

And it wasn’t just Batshuayi struggling. Chelsea had 16 shots in Valencia but hit the target with just six of them, really not testing Cillessen enough as a team.

After Abraham’s 11, Christian Pulisic is Chelsea’s next top scorer with six goals in all competitions, one ahead of Batshuayi. Moving further down Mason Mount and Jorginho have four, Willian and N’Golo Kante three, and Reece James two.

A further nine players have chipped in with one goal, but those have been rare strikes such as Fikayo Tomori’s thunderbolt against Wolves and Mateo Kovacic’s once-in-a-blue-moon strike in Valencia.

Olivier Giroud, Chelsea’s only other first-team striking option, has also managed one goal in the Super Cup but looks out of favour with Lampard having only played 20 minutes since mid-September.

Fortunately for Chelsea it appears Abraham’s injury isn’t as bad as first thought, with Abraham telling Chelsea TV: “It’s much better than when it happened. At the time I was fearful of the worst.

“I got in, I was able to walk again and move about. Hopefully it’s not too long. I think I’ll have a scan tomorrow, or an x-ray to see what the news is.

“Hopefully it is just a bruising. Because, at the end of the day, it was just a knee to my hip area so hopefully it’s nothing too serious.”

Chelsea will be hoping Abraham’s injury layoff is only a short one especially with the busy Christmas period coming up as they look in serious danger of falling away if he is out of the team.