Just 24 hours after returning to training with Chelsea, Mateo Kovacic has been forced into isolation after testing positive for Covid-19, while Jorginho will also miss the match against Zenit in the Champions League.
The Croatian missed eight matches with a hamstring injury but was back in training on Monday, with a return against Leeds United this weekend that looked likely.
Unfortunately, this will not become a reality after Thomas Tuchel revealed that Kovacic has tested positive and is no longer qualified for the game.
“Mateo was at training yesterday with a big smile and it was a real pleasure to have him back, but he tested positive today and isolates himself, so he is away for several days,” Tuchel said at his pre-match press conference. “It’s a big setback both for him and for us.”
Jorginho, who has had a niggle for a period, has also been ruled out with a hip injury, while N’Golo Kante remains sidelined with another knee injury.
Tuchel was asked if Kante’s sketchy injury record has anything to do with the Frenchman now being 30 years old, but the boss insisted that he was simply unlucky.
“I have an open relationship with him, he takes care of himself and needs his time,” Tuchel said. “We do not have a feeling that it is because of his age that he takes longer. He is a careful person and does not want to take risks.
“He’s a superman, the guy who makes the difference, the guy everyone in the world wants in his midfield. We miss him, but can we produce results without N’Golo? Yep, but it’s easier with him. We built him after his “last injury, but he had an accident that is not related to age or congestion, against Juventus. We miss him a lot.”
With Kovacic, Jorginho and Kante completely out, it is likely that Atletico Madrid-loaned Saul Niguez will be drafted back for a new chance to prove himself after a series of overwhelming performances after his move to Chelsea.
“He’s one of those guys who needs rhythm and minutes,” Tuchel said of Saul. “He is always in our thoughts, we reflect on every training session and performance.
“I think he struggled a bit with the intensity, and I also think he was a bit unlikely. He played against Aston Villa, Southampton and Watford, all three of which were high-intensity matches, above average. It does not suit his main qualities.
“We are trying to encourage him as he grows into Chelsea more and more. We will not stop encouraging him and trying to bring out the best, help him help us. There is a great chance he will prove it tomorrow.”
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