Edouard Mendy will return between the posts for tomorrow’s trip across the capital but Mateo Kovacic remains absent and looks unlikely to be available to face his former side Real Madrid next week…
That was the latest team news update provided by Thomas Tuchel at his pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon as the Chelsea head coach looked ahead to our weekend visit to West Ham, which sees fourth take on fifth in the Premier League.
The Blues boss reported a clean bill of health for all but Kovacic, whose recovery was progressing well but probably not quickly enough to be involved in either of our next two matches.
‘Mateo Kovacic is still out but everybody else is available,’ said Tuchel.
‘For me personally, I think we can hope for Fulham but don’t take that as medical advice. Maybe the physios and doctors will kill me for that but I think it’s maybe possible to be back again against Fulham, which is in between the Madrid games.
‘Madrid [first leg] will be very close because he has not trained with the team so Fulham is more realistic.’
Kepa has started in goal for the past two matches and Tuchel was asked whether Mendy would return soon…
‘Mendy is in goal. The change was made for Kepa for the FA Cup game and even before then, the goalkeeper coach and me decided that Kepa would stay one more game after Man City to have it as a reward and feel a bit the rhythm of playing every three days.
'We wanted to reward what he is doing in training and in the dressing room which is simply outstanding in terms of quality and personality so I’m very happy he could show it on the pitch.
‘He had two clean sheets in two difficult matches for us so it’s a very good feeling that we can absolutely can rely on two goalkeepers and they can produce clean sheets. They earn our trust but the situation in general has not changed so Edou will be in goal tomorrow.’
There was also an assessment of West Ham’s threats…
‘The good news is that we are totally focused on the game with no other subjects around. We clearly expect a tough match. West Ham are a very strong team that rely on solidarity and discipline, which is the basis for a very dangerous counter-attacking side.
‘They are relying on their set-pieces, which is a real threat, so the challenge is clear. We want to control the match, reduce ball losses to a minimum, close the spaces very intelligently before counter-attacks can even start and give away as few set-pieces as possible. That’s the plan but there are a lot of things to do so it’s a big challenge.’