Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said Mateo Kovacic will need a “miracle” to be fit for the FA Cup final against Liverpool after limping off injured during Wednesday’s 3-0 Premier League win at Leeds United.
The Croatia international was on the receiving end of a dangerous challenge from Dan James in the 24th minute, and the Leeds winger was swiftly shown a red card. Kovacic attempted to play on but was substituted minutes later.
Kovacic now faces a race against time to be fit for Saturday’s FA Cup final at Wembley, but Tuchel is not convinced the 28-year-old midfielder will be available.
“I tell you as a coach and not as an expert, but for me it is very unlikely he will play in the cup final,” Tuchel said. “He tried to play another 15 minutes which was almost impossible, so now he has a swollen ankle and is in a lot of pain.”
Kovacic has been a key player for Chelsea this season, providing drive and energy to the Blues midfield, and his presence in the team would make a major difference against a formidable Liverpool side.
“If he misses it I’m very disappointed – he was a clear starter. He is super hungry and determined and [was] excited to play this match,” Tuchel said. “Of course, he is in fear now he will miss it. We will see. We need to wait. Maybe we have a miracle and we make it possible.”
Kovacic’s injury was the only sour note on a successful evening for Chelsea, with goals from Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic and Romelu Lukaku ending a minor slump and taking the club a step closer to securing a top four place and entry into next season’s Champions League.
Chelsea are third in the standings on 70 points, four ahead of Arsenal and eight clear of Tottenham, who face each other at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Thursday.
“We needed a performance like that. We deserved to win. That’s the best message. We were excellent right from the start and kept our focus and high intensity,” Tuchel said.
“We cleared the air after the late equaliser against Wolves. We knew what was waiting. We had a lot of reason to trust ourselves. The players delivered. Full credit to them.
“We arrive [to the FA Cup final] with a clear mindset because we did what we needed to do this week. Good news.”
For Leeds, it was another blow in their attempt to avoid relegation and manager Jesse Marsch has challenged his players to fight until the end. With two games remaining Leeds sit 18th, level on points with 17th-placed Burnley but significantly behind on goal difference and having played one match more.
“I believe we can still fight for every point left,” Marsch said. “Until the red card there were a lot of good things. I like our team, I like the club, I love the fanbase. I’m really happy here. We had our backs against the wall in a very difficult situation.
“None of us have lived this. In big games we make the exact same mistakes. We are all in this together and doing everything we can. We’re up for the challenge.”