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The Blues kicked off their pre-season trip of the U.S with a 2-1 win against Mexican side Club America on Saturday night, as goals from Timo Werner and Mason Mount sealed a deserved victory.
Fixtures against Charlotte FC and Arsenal will follow for the Premier League outfit, who have been busy in this summer's transfer window, but as you may have noticed, two notable absentees are missing from their 29-man squad.
N'Golo Kante and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have stayed behind in England because the U.S government’s entry rules declare a COVID-19 vaccination is mandatory for all visitors who are not U.S nationals.
The pair featured in a pre-season friendly against Boreham Wood on Friday afternoon – a game they went on to win 4-2 – as they try and build their fitness ahead of the upcoming campaign.
But it is a far-from-ideal scenario for Chelsea and their boss Thomas Tuchel, who was asked about Kante and Loftus-Cheek's absences during the club's U.S tour.
🗣 “It’s their rights to not do it. It does not help us as a team, it does not help them as professional football players.”— Football Daily (@footballdaily) July 14, 2022
Thomas Tuchel on not having N’Golo Kanté and Ruben Loftus-Cheek for Chelsea’s tour of the United States due to their vaccination status. pic.twitter.com/MVIx4zD49k
Tuchel said: "We cannot force. It is at the moment a very normal decision to get vaccinated. Both players took the decision not to. We need to follow the rules – they cannot join us. They know about the consequences. We don’t like it, of course not. We would love to have them here and it's not an ideal solution. Far from ideal.
"But, once the situation is like this, you need to come up with a solution. They have their coaches there, have coaches from us there [with them] who take care. They train with the Under-23s and then they go with the Under-19s so as not to be completely out of a group. But it will not compensate. It will not be the same."
Tuchel was also asked if a player's vaccination status would play a part during transfer negotiations.
"I knew some players who I would also take without vaccination, I have to say. But yes, it is a part of daily life at the moment," he said. "Yes, it has to [come into your thinking]."
Good to see both Ngolo Kante & Ruben Loftus Cheek getting some match practice. pic.twitter.com/tdhjNuxMxe— Frank Khalid (@FrankKhalidUK) July 16, 2022
“I mean you can have an opinion, I can have an opinion but a player can also have an opinion,” he said.
“Then there can be regulations around this, like when you arrive at work your employer can create an environment where you are not allowed to be in the building if you are not vaccinated. This can happen so you have to adapt to it and you have to live with the consequences.
"But we cannot force people to get vaccinated and I will not change my opinion on that. I am not the guy to comment on that, I am not the expert here. There are experts in this country, all over the rest of Europe. Ask them and ask me please about football.
"I will not get involved. I am vaccinated. I made the decision for me and that's it. You know that it's causing an issue. But it's not that we have all unvaccinated infected. We have vaccinated players who are positive.
"I don't want to get involved in pointing fingers and starting the hunt for non-vaccinated people. This is a choice to make. Leave it there.”
Ngolo Kante and Ruben Loftus Cheek participated in our development squad's 4-2 win over Boreham Wood yesterday💙 pic.twitter.com/1u4XvBHH3I— CFC LSK Supporters Club💙🇿🇲 (@CfcLusaka) July 16, 2022
“If a player is not vaccinated at all, he is a constant threat for all of us. He doesn’t want to be a threat, of course, it is not that he thinks, ‘Oh my God, I don’t care about the others,’ but he is and we have to find different scenarios.
“From an organisational point of view, it gets really messy. If you really want to follow the protocols, it is incredibly difficult to do. If one gets Covid and he was in the last four days around him, he will be in isolation.
“If we have to travel to a country to play international football and we come back, he has to self-isolate – all these kinds of things.”
Last year, the Premier League announced that “92% of players and club staff have received one, two or three COVID-19 vaccination doses, with 84% of players on the vaccination journey.”