Thomas Tuchel has confirmed that Wednesday’s home game against Arsenal arrives too soon for Mateo Kovacic or Andreas Christensen to return from injury.
The Croatian midfielder hasn’t featured for the last month, since picking up an injury in the build-up to the second leg of our Champions League quarter-final win over Porto.
Our head coach had been hoping Kovacic would be able to return for tomorrow’s Premier League fixture, but revealed that comeback has now been pushed back, with the player eager to be involved in this weekend’s FA Cup final.
‘He is not ready for tomorrow, we have to postpone it to Wembley. His personal race is on to make it to the squad for Wembley,’ said Tuchel, who also discussed what we miss without Kovacic, and how his understudy has filled in.
‘Billy Gilmour had to step up now because we miss Kova so much and we play normally always with a double-six, so we were rotating constantly between N’Golo, Jorgi and Kova. Once we miss Kova now for so many games, so many weeks, it was on Billy to step up and I was very happy that he could deliver when it was needed.
‘So full credit for that, but Kova is a big loss with his ability to drive with the ball, his speed on the ball, without the ball. Kova is such a positive character and unique player, a real fighter on who you can always rely in games and training.
‘We really miss him, he is a good match with Jorgi and N’Golo in all combinations. So it’s a big miss and I can’t wait until he’s back in full team training. He’s taken some steps in the right direction and I hope he can rejoin team training after our game with Arsenal.’
However, there was good news on Christensen, after the defender limped off during our win over Manchester City at the weekend, with Tuchel relieved the Danish international’s injury wasn’t as serious as he first thought, admitting he was worried the defender’s season could be over.
‘It was much better than we feared. We hope that he can come back in one of the two Leicester games. It will also be a tough one, but the season’s not finished for him hopefully. We have realistic hopes that he can make his comeback, at the latest, against Aston Villa.
‘Andreas was crucial in the matches when he played. We missed him for a few games around the Porto game because of hamstring problems and now he has a tendon problem. He is crucial in the back three, he gives us a lot of options because he can play all three positions and he’s very calm, but don’t misjudge him for being calm, he is a very tough one to play against.
‘He uses his body very well, he is very strong in individual duels, he is good on the ball. The role in the back three suits him very well and I was very impressed by his performances. Now we got a big relief yesterday when the images were given and were not what we expected in the worst case. So we have realistic hopes that his season is not finished.’
The German manager also dismissed suggestions he might already have one eye on Saturday’s FA Cup final ahead of our Premier League meeting with Arsenal, and rest players against the Gunners as a result.
‘We just have an eye on the players’ workload and on the statistics that we have, who is maybe overloaded on high speed and from that we will decide who is at risk of injury. Everyone who is not at risk of injury will be available for the game.
‘It’s not the time to manage the game on Saturday now. Now is the time to manage the game on Wednesday. We’re in the middle of a race for the top four and cannot judge games.’