In the pre-game manager’s press conference early Friday, Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel was able to reveal that Danish centrehalf Andreas Christensen will join Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic on the injury list. They are the only absentees ahead of the trip to Wembley for the FA Cup semifinal against a formidable Manchester City side still chasing an unprecedented quadruple.
Although on the mend a timeframe for Kovacic’s return has not been revealed. The injury—which originally came to light just before Wednesday’s second leg of the Champions League tie against Porto—was revealed by Tuchel in his post-match press conference to be a hamstring injury. Kovacic picked up the knock in training the day before. In Kovacic’s absence, N’Golo Kante stepped back into the starting role to produce a characteristically battling display. The Frenchman had issues of his own after suffering a niggling hamstring knock. Tuchel went on to elaborate that Kante has been given the green light ahead of the clash with the Citizens. He would be capable of playing 90 minutes on Saturday after benefiting from a three-day gap between the midweek start in Champions League and the FA Cup semifinal.
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The Chelsea manager was tight-lipped on Christensen, giving no information on the type or extent of the 25-year-old’s injury. Although he was left out of the matchday squad for last weekend’s trip to Crystal Palace, he returned to the bench midweek. Christensen has had a relatively clean bill of health over the last few seasons, only suffering a handful of injuries—most of which stemming from hamstring troubles. Like Kovacic, Tuchel gave no timeframe as to when the Dane could return to the squad.
Tuchel and Chelsea fans alike will be giving a sigh of relief that more injuries were not picked up after an extremely taxing outing against a physical Porto side. This is especially true for Christian Pulisic, who found himself on the receiving end of 11 fouls, the most on one player in 90 minutes of Champions League football since Lionel Messi in 2011.
With the FA Cup arguably Chelsea’s most realistic opportunity to pick up silverware this season, it will be fascinating to see to what extent the Blues rotate the starting XI tomorrow. Tuchel could possibly use Tuesday’s Premier League bout at home to Brighton to rest players who are in the red zone before what will be a must win match against London rivals—and fellow top four challengers—West Ham.
In a tough season played in extraordinary circumstances, how much Chelsea and Manchester City’s midweek exploits will affect the quality of the spectacle tomorrow will be an interesting angle. When asked if he thought the match against Pep Guardiola’s men could be tactical affair, Tuchel said that he is expecting another intense and physically demanding match, keeping in the spirit of English football. Tuchel himself will be striving to record his first victory over his friend and opposite number Guardiola, after registering zero wins in five attempts in their previous matches over three seasons in the Bundesliga.
Who would you like to see step in for Kovacic and Christensen? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!