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Chelsea will once again be without midfielder Mateo Kovacic for their decisive UEFA Champions League semi-final clash with his former club Real Madrid.
The Croatian missed the first-leg in Valdebebas with a thigh problem – a game that ended 1-1, with Christian Pulisic and Karim Benzema trading blows.
He was also ruled out for the 2-0 win against Fulham at the weekend.
Despite Blues boss Thomas Tuchel electing to remain hopeful on the midfielder’s fitness ahead of the game, the German conceded that he will not be ready in time. He did however give positive news on the potential inclusion of Antonio Rudiger.
Talking in his pre-match press conference ahead of the game in west London, Tuchel said: “I can give you the status right now which is that Mateo will not be in the squad.
“I think Toni [Rudiger] will be fine to play with a mask and he trained with us yesterday. Everyone else trained yesterday too and will be out training with us later today.
“Hopefully we will have no new injuries from today’s training, so that means everyone is available for the match except for Mateo Kovacic.”
The absence of the former Inter Milan man will of course be another blow for Chelsea in what has been a positive season for the midfielder and the club.
The 26-year-old has appeared on 39 occasions in all competitions throughout the campaign as the Blues attempt to finish in the Premier League top four and continue their battles for the FA Cup and Champions League crowns.
A three-time European champion with Los Blancos, he was named the Chelsea Player of the Year at the end of the 2019/20 season and he has continued those performances into the current term.
Tuchel recently praised his partnership with fellow midfielder Jorginho.
“You know Kova [Kovacic] is always a hard worker, he sometimes suffers a little bit in the precision of his offensive passes because he works so hard and is a big, big helper for everybody,” the German said.
“Jorgi [Jorginho] is a bit more the strategic guy who helps us in the build-up and he makes good decisions and helps us to escape the pressure.”
“So they are a good fit and in the end to have NG [Kante] on the bench and to finish with all three midfielders this helps us a lot because the guys have the experience and the quality,” Tuchel continued.
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