Chelsea v Liverpool: Tammy Abraham absence a blow but Blues have bigger problems - Alan Shearer

By Alan ShearerMOTD pundit
Match of the Day

Alan Shearer joins Ian Wright, Glen Johnson and Gary Lineker at Stamford Bridge for live coverage of Chelsea v Liverpool in the FA Cup fifth round at 19:30 GMT on BBC One and the BBC Sport website.

Chelsea's Tammy Abraham is the latest England striker to be sidelined by injury and it is starting to seem like the position is jinxed.

I am still hoping to watch Abraham against Liverpool in the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday but Chelsea manager Frank Lampard does not exactly sound optimistic that his ongoing ankle problem will allow him to play.

If it doesn't get any better soon, it is going to affect his England chances too.

That would be a shame. Abraham has been struggling with this injury for the past four or five weeks but, bearing in mind this is his first season in the Premier League, I have been impressed by what I have seen from him.

After Chelsea's draw with Leicester City at the start of February, I talked about him on Match of the Day, and said how his movement in the box could be better and how he should be more confident on his weaker left foot.

That being said, he is a player who I look at as someone who has all the tools he needs to get to the next level. And he is only 22, so he has got plenty of improvement left in him. I just hope he is back at 100% soon.

How will club and country cope without him?

Tammy Abraham in action for England
Tammy Abraham scored his first senior international goal in England's 7-0 win over Montenegro last November. He has won four caps in total since his debut against Germany in November 2017.

I would like to see Abraham get an opportunity against Italy and Denmark later this month and, if he is fit, I am sure he will.

He is not going to be England's first-choice striker unless there are injuries to the players ahead of him, but that is exactly what has happened.

Tottenham's Harry Kane and Manchester United's Marcus Rashford won't be involved in either of those friendlies, and Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate does not have many other options.

So, it is a blow for Abraham if he has to spend any length of time on the sidelines now, because this could be his opportunity to stake his claim for a spot at Euro 2020.

It is not his fault if he can't play, but one player's misfortune is always an opportunity for someone else - for club and country.

At Chelsea, we have hardly seen anything of Olivier Giroud this season until the past couple of weeks, but he is a decent back-up and he gives them a different option up front.

For England, Dominic Calvert-Lewin might just have hit form at the right time.

Calvert-Lewin always plays the role of a number nine very well, in the way he brings other people into the game and runs in behind defences, but recently he has been notching a few goals for Everton as well.

This might turn out to be his moment. The way things are going, Southgate might not have much choice.

Chelsea have bigger issues than just up front

Frank Lampard applauds the crowd after Chelsea's home loss to Bayern
Chelsea lost 3-0 at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League last week

If they are without Abraham against Liverpool on Tuesday, then Chelsea will need a different approach.

Giroud is obviously not as mobile or pacy - he really relies on balls into the box - but the Frenchman is still very effective if you use him in the right way.

He was Chelsea's man of the match in their win over Spurs last week, when he led the line so well and took his goal nicely.

So, I don't think it's a disaster from Chelsea's point of view if they have to rely on him up front - in any case, they have bigger issues than that.

Injuries right through the team have forced manager Frank Lampard to frequently change his side and system over the past few weeks, and they have been struggling defensively.

There is not much consistency in the players they have been using at the back, and they look vulnerable. After Saturday's 2-2 draw with Bournemouth, they have now conceded 10 goals in their past five games.

Sleepy five minutes cost Chelsea - Lampard

Again, they had a lot of possession against the Cherries, but they really need to be more clinical in front of goal, and they have been so inconsistent that it is hard to know what sort of performance to expect from them against Liverpool.

Chelsea were battered by Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, so realistically they only have the top four and the FA Cup left to play for.

In the Premier League, they have a fight on their hands - in November they had a nine-point advantage over the team in fifth place but that is now down to three.

With the FA Cup, it will obviously improve their chances of reaching the quarter-finals if the Reds put out another weakened team.

In the past two rounds, Jurgen Klopp has played the kids - first against Everton and then an even younger team in the replay against Shrewsbury - so we will have to wait and see what he does this time.

There are other worries for Southgate too

At the moment it is hard to say who should lead England's attack against Croatia when they play their first group game of Euro 2020 at Wembley on 14 June.

It is clear that centre-forward is turning into a problem position for Southgate with all these players being sidelined.

There has even been talk of Leicester City's Jamie Vardy making a return for England, but even he is injured at the moment.

I think that is a non-starter anyway. Vardy all but retired from international football in August 2018 and I have never heard the 33-year-old say anything about changing his mind.

If Kane and Rashford don't make it, then Abraham would be one of the main contenders if he is fit - but after that there is only Calvert-Lewin and Southampton's Danny Ings to fall back on.

Danny Ings
Danny Ings has scored 15 Premier League goals this season. He has played once for England, in October 2015.

It is not just in attack where Southgate might have some concerns about the form or fitness of his players, though.

In goal, Jordan Pickford has not been great for Everton for a while now. Sheffield United's Dean Henderson has probably been England's best keeper, based on his performances in the Premier League, and Nick Pope has been decent at Burnley as well.

Going just on how they have been playing for their clubs, Pickford has been the worst of those three, but that does not necessarily mean Southgate will drop him.

I think he will have a look at at least one other keeper against Italy or Denmark - which game it will be, I don't know.

Going through the team, we have some quality full-backs but there is a shortage of options at centre-half.

My guess is that Harry Maguire of Manchester United and Liverpool's Joe Gomez will get the nod as a partnership, but the main reason they come straight to mind is because no-one else really does.

Aston Villa's Tyrone Mings only came into the picture at the end of the qualifying campaign, while John Stones has not been playing for Manchester City, and that must be a worry for Southgate.

In midfield, a fit Jordan Henderson gets the nod every time, but there are places up for grabs around the Liverpool captain.

Dele Alli has not had a great season, and has not even made it into the Tottenham team at times, so I would not be surprised if Southgate looks at James Maddison and Jack Grealish this month.

I know they are slightly different to the type of player he uses in his midfield, because they usually operate slightly further forward, but I still think they will be given a go.

The wide positions up front are also pretty much taken, by Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho, but there is not an awful lot of back-up behind those two either.

Rashford, who can play on the left or up front, is out and Callum Hudson-Odoi has not been playing much for Chelsea.

So, at this stage, England look a long way off full-strength but luckily there is another three months or so before the Euros start - they do not have to be fit or firing on all cylinders just yet.

Alan Shearer was talking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan

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