After fine recent performances, it seemed like a lock for American Christian Pulisic to start for Chelsea on Wednesday against Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinal. After all, he was fantastic in the first leg and scored a vital away goal with a fine finish. So, most people were surprised when we reported that he would begin the match on the bench in favor of Timo Werner, Mason Mount and Kai Havertz.
Pulisic, who came off the bench and bagged an assist to help Chelsea advance to the Champions League final with a 2-0 win, was just as surprised, it seems, saying he was very frustrated. Here he is speaking to CBS Sports after the game, touching on his relationship with Mason Mount, who he assisted, and then explaining how he felt to be on the bench:
“Very frustrated,” he said. “Umm, yeah, there’s not much else to say. I wanted to play from the beginning, as I always do. I’ve had to continue to prove myself over and over again. But, as always I reach out to God and he gives me strength. With that behind me, nothing can stop me really.”
Though any hard feelings Pulisic might have had sure seemed to have evaporated by the time he started celebrating whit his teammates. At least that’s how it seemed on Edouard Mendy’s Instagram feed.
At this point, he certainly feels far from a lock to start the final, though he does feel deserving. It depends on how Thomas Tuchel approaches the final, where he’ll likely field a team similar to the second leg rather than the first leg. That defense-first mentality and playing with caution is needed against Manchester City. Perhaps Tuchel sees Werner, Mount and Havertz as superior when it comes to applying pressure in attack.
There’s no doubt Pulisic has been one of the team’s better players as of late, but it will be up to Tuchel to decide if he warrants a start or to be that super sub.