Thomas Tuchel has said Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could make his Chelsea debut against Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday night and that the former Arsenal captain is “hungry” to play for his new club. The Gabon striker, who left Arsenal for Barcelona in February after being stripped of the captaincy by Mikel Arteta, is set to wear a protective face mask in the Champions League tie in Croatia after suffering a broken jaw last month.
Aubameyang completed a £10m move to Chelsea on deadline day and was expected to be not be available for several weeks. But Tuchel confirmed on Monday that the 33-year-old is a contender for the bench against Dinamo.
“If there is an issue today we will not put him but there was no issue for him yesterday,” said the Chelsea manager. “Is he ready to start? I think he cannot play 90 minutes so we have to manage the decision.”
Asked whether Aubameyang was ready to become Chelsea’s new hero despite being handed the “cursed” No 9 shirt, Tuchel – who coached him for two years at Borussia Dortmund between 2015 and 2017 – added: “Don’t put any further ideas into Auba’s head please. When he scores, he can celebrate. He is hungry to play for us, that is what we felt from the first moment and he is invited to prove a point.”
Mateo Kovacic, who began his career at Dinamo before moving to Internazionale, also welcomed Aubameyang’s arrival. “He will be a goalscorer that we missed – we haven’t had a goalscorer to score 20-25 goals per season which you need to win the title,” said Kovacic. “For him it is normal to score goals and I hope he will do it here as well.”
Thiago Silva has not travelled with the Chelsea squad after Tuchel decided to rest the veteran Brazil defender but Denis Zakaria could also be handed his first appearance since joining on loan from Juventus on deadline day.
Tuchel admitted he was wary of the threat posed by Dinamo, who thrashed Tottenham 3-0 to eliminate them in their last-16 tie in the Europa League in 2021. “They will use their role as underdog to try and overperform and make us underperform,” he said. “We are aware of it and we are ourselves in a moment where we need to improve. We need to take the next step and it’s Champions League and it’s very exciting.
“We are aware of the challenge of playing a first match away. I think it’s important we accept it and play a humble match. We accept the fight and accept the challenge. But we need to perform for sure.”