Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel has admitted it is ‘very unlikely’ Mateo Kovacic will be fit for Saturday’s FA Cup final after he was forced off injured against Leeds.
The midfielder was the victim of a horror tackle from Dan James just 24 minutes into the 3-0 victory for his side. The Leeds man flew in and planted his studs on the Croatians shin, with his ankle turning under the impact of the challenge.
James was shown a straight red card and although Kovacic attempted to play on, he eventually went down again and was withdrawn on the half-hour mark. The 28-year-old was seen walking down the tunnel with heavy strapping on his ankle at full-time.
Speaking after the match, Chelsea boss Tuchel revealed his player was ‘in a lot of pain’ and was highly doubtful for the cup final against Liverpool on Saturday.
“I tell you not as a coach and not as an expert but for me it is very unlikely [Kovacic will be fit],” he said.
“He played in the Carabao Cup final and the semi-final of the FA Cup with the same injury and he tried to play more minutes here, but it was almost impossible so he came off and he has a swollen ankle and is in a lot of pain.
“We need to wait for the examination but it is very unlikely and that is absolutely bad news for us of course.”
He added: “If he misses it I’m very disappointed because he was a clear starter. If you look at the quality today with Jorgi and him in central midfield when we played eleven against eleven, it was a very strong start. He is a key figure for us in midfield.”
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Tuchel could have a selection headache in midfield with N’Golo Kante also doubtful. The Frenchman missed the trip to Leeds.
Speaking on his fitness, Tuchel said: “I am not sure [if he will be fit for FA Cup final]. Maybe I know more tomorrow. The best chance for him to be ready for Saturday is Friday. It’s very close what we are doing here. He was not in team training [on Tuesday]. We have to see.”
Chelsea were comfortable 3-0 winners at Elland Road, with Mason Mount opening the scoring early on by rounding off a fine team move with an excellent finish. Christian Pulisic and Romelu Lukaku made the game safe in the second half following James’ dismissal.