Thomas Tuchel has confirmed Mateo Kovacic will miss the Champions League semi-final first-leg tie with his old club Real Madrid.
Kovacic has been unavailable for the Blues’ last three matches after injuring his hamstring in the lead-up to the Champions League quarter-final with Porto.
The 26-year-old has been a regular for Chelsea for much of this season, starting 27 of their 37 Premier League and Champions League matches this season, so would almost certainly have been at least in the squad for Tuesday’s trip to Madrid.
But on Friday Tuchel confirmed Kovacic will miss Saturday’s crucial match with West Ham and the midweek clash against his former club.
Tuchel is hopeful Kovacic, who signed for the Blues permanently in the summer of 2019 after a season on loan, should be ready for the May 1 clash with another London rival, Fulham, though.
“Me personally, I hope (he will be ready) for Fulham,” Tuchel said during his pre-match press conference. “Don’t take it for granted or that it is medical advice, this is just my personal opinion.
“I think it’s maybe possible to be back against Fulham, in-between the Madrid games.
“I think Madrid could be close as he’s not trained with the team. To be realistic, tomorrow is a game, then two days to prepare for Madrid, without training, it will not happen. Hopefully Fulham is a realistic target.”
One of the most surprising selection choices for Tuesday’s 0-0 draw with Brighton was Kepa Arrizabalaga retaining his place in goal for what was only his second league start since October.
Kepa had been brought into the starting XI for Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final victory over Manchester City, having played in every game in the competition this season, and after a positive showing, the 26-year-old kept his place.
However, on Friday Tuchel confirmed: “[Edouard] Mendy is in goal. The change was made for Kepa for the cup game. And even before the cup game, the goalkeeper coach and I decided that Kepa would stay in for one more game after City as a reward to keep the rhythm of playing every three days.
“It should be like a real reward and not just reward him for the competition because of how he is playing and in the dressing room he is simply outstanding in terms of quality and personality and I’m very happy that he could show it on the pitch again.
“He had two clean sheets in two difficult matches for us. So it is a very good feeling to know we can rely on two goalkeepers and they can produce clean sheets.
“They earn our trust at the moment and the situation, in general, has not changed – Edouard will be in goal tomorrow.”