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Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic needs a ‘miracle’ to play in the FA Cup final after a reckless challenge from Dan James

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Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic needs a “miracle” to be fit in time for Saturday’s FA Cup final against Liverpool after the Croatia international slipped in Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Leeds United, manager Thomas Tuchel has said .

Ovacic was on the receiving end of a reckless tackle from Leeds winger Dan James, who was shown a red card for the 24th-minute challenge.

“I’m telling you as a coach and not as an expert, but for me it’s very unlikely that he will play in the cup final,” Tuchel told reporters.

“He tried to play another 15 minutes, which was almost impossible, so now he has a swollen ankle and a lot of pain.”

The 28-year-old, who also missed three games last month with an ankle problem, has been a key player for Chelsea this season. He made 43 appearances in all competitions and contributed six assists.

“If he misses I’ll be very disappointed – he was a clear starter. He’s super hungry and determined and (was) excited to play this match,” added Tuchel.

“Obviously now he’s afraid he’s going to miss it. We’ll see. We’ll have to wait. Maybe we’ll have a miracle and we’ll make it happen.”

Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic and Romelu Lukaku scored at Elland Road as Chelsea recovered from a minor slump to record their first win in four league games.

“We had to improve, there was a reason why we conceded goals and we did that as a team,” said Tuchel. “It was nothing new what we did today, but we did it with a lot more focus and discipline than in the last few games.”

Chelsea had dropped 10 points in their last five games but made the win easy at troubled Leeds.

Tuchel added: “I found the team to be very calm, very determined and very focused before the game and put in a performance that we have grown accustomed to over so many weeks.

“I’m very happy and of course it was necessary given our situation and not just because we’re arriving for a big game now, it’s very good to come into a game like Saturday’s with a calm mind.”

Leeds’ third straight loss left them in the bottom three, level on points with Burnley, who have a game in hand and two games left – at home against Brighton and on the final day at Brentford – to end a disastrous season rescue.

Boss Jesse Marsch said James “felt awful” about his costly sacking in the 24th minute but refused to point the finger at his player.

“One thing is for sure, I’m not going to sit here and blame anyone,” said the American.

“We have to be aggressive against the ball. We have to try to win balls and sometimes we were a bit too aggressive in certain situations and that cost us.

“I think the situation with the table has something to do with it, has everything to do with our situation at the moment.

“We want to be aggressive, but we definitely don’t want to cross the line.”

https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/chelseas-mateo-kovacic-needs-a-miracle-to-play-in-fa-cup-final-after-reckless-challenge-by-dan-james-41642167.html Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic needs a ‘miracle’ to play in the FA Cup final after a reckless challenge from Dan James

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