Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel fears Mateo Kovacic will miss Saturday’s FA Cup Final against Liverpool at Wembley after suffering an ankle injury following a challenge by Daniel James, which earned the Leeds United forward a red card in the home side’s 3-0 defeat at Elland Road.
Former Real Madrid midfielder Kovacic was forced out of the game after a brief attempt to continue following the 24th minute dismissal of James, Leeds’s £25 million record signing from Manchester United last August.
And with less than 72 hours to recover before facing Liverpool on Saturday (stream live on ESPN+ at 11:45 a.m. ET), Tuchel said that Kovacic is unlikely to be fit in time to play against Jurgen Klopp’s team.
“I tell you not as a coach and not as an expert, but for me, it is very unlikely,” Tuchel said. “It was a swollen ankle and he is in a lot of pain.
“For me, I am not a doctor and we need to wait for the examinations, but it is very unlikely he can play. It is absolutely bad news for us on a perfect evening.”
Tuchel, who rested key players including Thiago Silva and Kai Havertz ahead of the final, said that he will be forced to rethink his team to face Liverpool if Kovacic fails to recover.
“If he misses it I’m very disappointed because he was a clear starter,” Tuchel said. “If you look at the quality today also with Jorgi [Jorginho] and him in central midfield when we played 11 against 11, it was a very strong start.
“He is a key figure for us in midfield. He played against Liverpool, I think both matches from the beginning and was very strong.
“He’s super, super hungry and determined and excited to play these matches and of course, he is in fear he will miss it. We will see. We need to wait. Maybe we have a miracle and we make it possible.
“I did not see the challenge live. I just saw it from a distance on the iPad. I am not good at looking at these situations because it hurts me physically to watch it, but everybody told me it is a clear red card.”
Injury news aside, the night was a good one for Chelsea. Tuchel’s side bolstered their third-place spot in the Premier League moving to 70 points, four ahead of Arsenal and eight ahead of Tottenham Hotspur, who play their game in hand against one another on Thursday.