Chelsea set to be missing Kovacic for FA Cup semi-final – but Tuchel’s Kante risk pays off in Champions League

BY PAUL LAGAN
paul@slpmedia.co.uk

Mateo Kovacic will miss tomorrow’s FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City at Wembley and N’Golo Kante, who was forced to play 90 minutes in midweek as cover, is also a doubt.

The Blues will be buoyed by their highly-professional performance against Porto on Tuesday, which saw them lose to a last-minute spectacular goal, but go through to the semi-final of the Champions League with a 2-1 aggregate win.

Head coach Thomas Tuchel confirmed that Croatian midfielder Kovacic suffered an injury in training ahead of the match against the Portuguese outfit.

He said: “Mateo had a slight hamstring injury after 20 minutes of training, he is such an important player for us.

“He is out of the City game on Saturday. It’s a big loss as we don’t have so many experienced players that have played top matches.

“We took a risk to play N’Golo Kante. Not a risk of an injury, but a risk in that we didn’t know if he could last 90 minutes or potentially 120 minutes if extra time was needed.

“We hoped he had the energy. He is incredible, he is like two players, his work rate is outstanding.

“My family love him, they watch our games now. He gives all the players confidence.”

Tuchel will have another difficult decision to make up as he ponders whether to restore misfiring striker Timo Werner to the starting 11 or continue with Kai Havertz.

Werner was dropped for the weekend’s 4-1 thrashing of Crystal Palace with Havertz scoring the opener, but Tuchel will want to get his number one striker back on the pitch and hopefully scoring goals as soon as possible.

The 1-0 defeat in midweek came from a spectacular overhead kick deep into added time at the end of an otherwise dull game.

Tuchel said: “On the bench I was so nervous, as a goal can change everything and it came with a spectacular bicycle kick.

“I can imagine both legs were not entertaining to watch – as it’s difficult to play Porto. This was a game to hang in, to show intensity and team spirit, especially as we have a young team. This was the key.

“When you work hard and sweat you can’t be nervous anymore.

“We have arrived at the semi-final. It’s a big achievement, a big step. We are not used to being there, but we are playing to get into the final.”

Chelsea Women return to action following the international break when they face London City Lionesses tonight in the fourth round of the FA Cup at Kingsmeadow.

The winners will take on Everton or Durham at home in the fifth round.

Manager Emma Hayes will make wholesale changes from the side that beat Birmingham 6-0 last time out – to give key players time to recover from playing for their national sides.

Millie Bright, Fran Kirby, Beth England and Carly Telford all played for England in their 2-0 defeat to Canada on Tuesday.

Hayes will want to keep most of them fresh for Tuesday’s crunch WSL match when the Blues head up to Manchester City where the destination of the league title will rest with whoever wins.

Chelsea are top, two points ahead of City in second place.

Chelsea have never beaten City in the league at their Academy Stadium, but did overcome them 4-2 after extra time in the League Cup in January.

 


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