Thomas Tuchel confirms Chelsea injury blow with anxious Real Madrid wait

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Thomas Tuchel has delivered an injury blow to Chelsea, as the Blues prepare for a Champions League semi-final clash with Real Madrid. The news concerns Mateo Kovacic, who has been ruled out of Chelsea’s last three games with a hamstring injury.

After struggling for consistent game time under Frank Lampard, the midfielder became a virtual ever-present when Tuchel was appointed.

He developed an impressive partnership with N’Golo Kante, helping the Frenchman to return to his best as Chelsea turned their season around.

But after starting three games in succession, Kovacic suffered a hamstring injury in training as the Blues prepared for their quarter-final second leg against Porto.

Tuchel has found it hard to find the right balance without the 26-year-old in midfield, with the German using two different pairings in the three games Chelsea have played without him.

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That has come with mixed results though, with the Blues drawing one, losing one and winning one in Kovacic’s absence.

And with the Blues gearing up for their first Champions League semi-final since 2014, Tuchel is likely to have to continue to plan for the absence of the midfielder.

But Tuchel is optimistic that though he is set to miss Saturday’s visit to West Ham and the first leg of the Madrid tie, Kovacic could return for the Premier League clash against Fulham next week.

“The team news is there is no news. Mateo Kovacic is still out but everybody else is still available,” Tuchel said in his pre-match press conference.

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“The good news is that we are now totally focused on the game, no other subjects around. No other motivations, no demotivations, rumours or whatever out there.

“Me personally I think we can hope for Fulham. But don’t take it for granted or as medical advice, that’s just my personal decision.

“Maybe the physios and doctors will kill me for that but I think it’s maybe possible to be back again for Fulham, which is between the Madrid games.”

It appears that the significance of the first leg of a Champions League semi-final has counted against Kovacic, with the Croatian yet to return to training.

“I think Madrid could be very, very close because obviously he has not trained with the team so to be realistic when should this happen?” Tuchel added.

“Tomorrow is a game and then we have two more days to prepare.

“Real Madrid in the semi-finals of the Champions League without training with the team will not happen. Hopefully Fulham is a realistic target.”

With Kovacic likely to miss the next two games, the main midfield options for Tuchel are Jorginho, Kante, Billy Gilmour and Mason Mount.
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