Chelsea have an injury headache and a selection dilemma ahead of Sunday’s League Cup final at Wembley against Liverpool.
Mateo Kovacic and Hakim Ziyech limped off the pitch during their Champions League win against French outfit Lille on Tuesday, and head coach Thomas Tuchel has to decide whether to bring back dumped striker Romelu Lukaku to their attack.
The German boss said: “I should have substituted Kova earlier, perhaps at half-time, so we could have saved a change. I didn’t see Hakim’s injury. It’s a little bit like the story of the season for us, doing substitutions for injuries instead of for tactical reasons.
“But the League Cup final is on Sunday so hopefully it won’t be too bad and we will have enough time to recover players in time for another big game.”
Ruben Loftus-Cheek or Jorginho will deputise should either fail to make it.
Tuchel will also use the time to assess Lukaku’s mental and physical fitness before deciding whether to restore the £97.5million hitman to the starting line-up. He was very coy when asked if the Belgian will start.
He said: “Every game is different. The focus on Tuesday was on intensity and a high-speed game.
“It was about hard work against the ball, off the ball and intensive teamwork. Romelu struggled in the last few games a little bit to deliver that. That’s what I meant when I felt he was a bit tired, both mentally and physically.
“Since the Liverpool [league] game, he started every match and there were some extra times as well.
“Against Lille, we went for three other players with Kai in great shape, very confident and giving a lot of work- rate in high intensive metres for the team.
“The decision doesn’t need to be made yet. Lukaku has every chance to play.”
Tuchel took Lukaku out of the firing line after his unwanted Premier League record of making the fewest number of touches for a player playing 90 minutes – seven in the 1-0 league win at Crystal Palace at the weekend.
Tuchel said: “It was not the moment after that match where everybody was focused on the few touches that we had to put him right into the next fire.
“Despite the win almost every question is about Romelu. The focus is huge. There were nine other players who did not play.
“We should never forget we consider this sport a team sport and the 11 guys who play do everything to commit fully to what we plan and to commit fully to their team-mates. Those on the bench have to do the same, and this is how it works.”
The women’s side continue their defence of the FA Cup with a home match at Kingsmeadow tomorrow against improving Leicester City.
Beth England and Melanie Leupolz trained this week following injury and long Covid.
Skipper Magda Eriksson is expected to start after a long stint on the treatment table. A number of players on international duty – such as Fran Kirby – could be rested or on the bench.
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