Frank Lampard has insisted Chelsea cannot afford to “overcook” speed king Christian Pulisic this season.
The USA forward fired 11 goals and laid on nine assists in a hugely promising debut Premier League campaign with the Blues last term.
The 22-year-old has taken the number 10 shirt at Stamford Bridge but has missed the start of the new campaign with the hamstring injury he suffered in the FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal.
And now Blues boss Lampard has admitted Chelsea must tread carefully to maximise Pulisic’s talent without exposing him to more muscle-based injuries.
“There is always a concern about players’ fitness when the history says there have been some injuries,” said Lampard.
“Last season we had some with Christian and I was questioned many times on my position on Christian, when he was in or out of the side and he didn’t play.
“Of course, when you look at his recent record you are looking for the right balance to get the best out of him, which you saw in big periods last year. And you’re looking to make sure you don’t overcook him and leave him susceptible to injury.
“Particularly when a player has his explosive power and balance, that’s a fine line. We are working on that and Christian is very open to that.
“He wants to play, he is so hungry to play and he is nearly fit now, but it is certainly something we are going to have to manage this season.
“We have all seen the talent. It’s something we want to get right.
“I am not saying it’s a fundamental, chronic type of an issue. It’s not. But we want to get as many minutes as we can out of the really great Christian that we saw lots of last season on the pitch.
“Christian isn’t ready for West Brom and neither is Hakim Ziyech, but they are both training with us now which is good news. We hope to have them with us in proper match contention over the next week or two.”
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New recruits Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell made accomplished debuts as Chelsea overwhelmed Barnsley 6-0 in Wednesday’s League Cup third-round victory at Stamford Bridge.
Lampard believes both are fit enough for Saturday’s Premier League trip to West Brom, but will balance that with matches against Tottenham and Crystal Palace ahead next week.
“I believe they are fit enough to start,” said Lampard, of Silva and Chilwell.
“But I also have to take into consideration the fact that we play another game with quite a tight turnaround on Tuesday, and then another on Saturday, and then some players might play three games for their countries so I am managing that one.
“They came through the game on Wednesday and I think Thiago had 60 minutes in the tank, so that was good to see.
“With Ben I might be a little bit more cautious, because his injury has been quite a challenging one.
“I will make the calls but they are in a good place at the moment.”