Gianfranco Zola has given a positive report on the likely recovery time for Toni Rudiger who has been ruled out of tomorrow’s Europa League quarter-final decider, but may not be missing for too much longer.
Due to a minor medical procedure for Maurizio Sarri, it was assistant coach Zola who spoke to the media at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening and as well as discussing the German central defender’s fitness, he also had news regarding Gary Cahill.
Rudiger had to come off with an injured knee during the defeat at Anfield on Sunday.
‘It looks not as bad as we thought, luckily,’ said Zola at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening.
‘When he came off limping we were worried, but apparently it is not that bad, plus he is a strong boy and he will be back sooner than you expect.’
Indeed that return may even be as soon as the important meeting with Manchester United in two weekends’ time.
‘There is a strong possibility that we will see him, he is a warrior and he does not want to miss a game like that,’ confirmed Zola. ‘The next few days will be very important to see if he can continue to progress and recover so quickly.
‘Obviously he is an important player for us, I’ve seen Antonio improving in many ways, the way he plays with the ball and the way he is defending, he will be missed but we have already alternated the three defenders many times and when Andreas Christensen has come in to play with David Luiz, he has done very well. He is another one who has grown so much in security and confidence. So he [Rudiger] will be missed but I am sure those who are playing will do well.’
Also missing from today’s training session, which was taken by Sarri, were two other defenders, Marcos Alonso and Ethan Ampadu, but Gary Cahill was certainly part of the action.
‘Gary is in the squad for tomorrow,’ reported Zola. ‘I still do not know whether he will be on the bench but there is a strong possibility. Gary has been exceptional as a professional, he has always been training very well and so I would be very happy to see him back in the team.
‘It has been a tough year for him because a manager came with different ideas and Toni Rudiger and David Luiz have done so well together, so he found himself in this position, but I can only speak very well about him because in his position considering the type of player he is, he has always been training and behaving perfectly, so he has my respect.’
Sarri made seven changes to his side for the first leg in Prague. Zola was asked whether similar is likely for the second leg or whether it might be a stronger team chosen.
‘I wouldn’t say we put out a weak side when we played over there,’ he countered. ‘We made changes because we know we have a good squad and players who can come in and do well, as we did over there.
‘There will probably be some changes but there will not be many, because it is a tough match. We knew that before and the match over there confirmed that. We are very aware we are playing a good team and need to play at our best.’