Thomas Tuchel reckons Mateo Kovacic will miss Saturday’s FA Cup final after Dan James was ruthlessly challenged in Chelsea’s 3-0 win at Leeds.
Ovacic had to be substituted in the 30th minute with an ankle injury just after James was shown the red card for his high tackle on the Croatian midfielder.
Chelsea drove to victory, pushing Leeds deeper into the relegation swamp with Mason Mount’s early opener and second-half goals from Christian Pulisic and Romelu Lukaku.
But boss Tuchel said satisfaction at his side’s timely return before they face Liverpool at Wembley has been tempered by Kovacic’s likely absence.
Tuchel, whose side halted a three-game winless run to move four points clear of Arsenal in third place, said: “He has a swollen ankle and is in a lot of pain.
“For me, as I said, I’m not a doctor and we have to wait for the tests, but it’s very unlikely that he can play. This is absolutely bad news for us on our perfect evening.
“If he misses I’ll be very disappointed because he was a clear starter.”
James is the second Leeds player to be shown a straight red card for a hasty fight in as many games after the sacking of team-mate Luke Ayling in Sunday’s defeat by Arsenal.
“I didn’t see the challenge live, I was focused on something else,” said Tuchel. “I watched it remotely on the iPad and I’m not good at looking at those situations because it physically hurts me to watch it.”
Chelsea had dropped 10 points in their last five games but eased the win in troubled Leeds, which is taking the Blues closer to a Champions League spot.
Tuchel added: “Before the game, I found the team very calm, very determined and very focused and delivered a performance that we have become 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, but it’s very good to come to a game like Saturday’s with a calm mind.”
Leeds’ third consecutive defeat 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 salvage a disastrous season.
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 don’t want to cross the line.”
Leeds were dealt further injury damage when Jack Harrison limped away in the first half and Marsch said the winger would need a scan while Raphinha was withdrawn as a precaution.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/chelseas-mateo-kovacic-set-to-miss-fa-cup-final-after-dan-james-challenge-41641295.html Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic set to miss FA Cup final after Dan James challenge