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James was sent off for the reckless tackle – but that was of little comfort to Tuchel, who will now have to fill the void left by Kovacic.
“I tell you not as a coach and not as an expert, but for me it is very unlikely he will play,” he said. “First of all, if Mateo goes out, he never goes out. He played in the semi-final of the FA Cup with the same injury and tried to play another 15 minutes, which was almost impossible.
“Now he went out. It was a swollen ankle and he is in a lot of pain. For me, I am not a doctor and we need to wait for the examinations, but it is very unlikely he can play.
“It is absolutely bad news for us on a perfect evening.”
N’Golo Kante is already a doubt after missing Chelsea’s last two games, leaving Tuchel with a headache ahead of Saturday.
“If he (Kovacic) misses it, I’m very disappointed because he was a clear starter,” he said. “He is a key figure for us in midfield. He played against Liverpool, I think both matches from the beginning and was very strong.
“He’s super, super hungry and determined and excited to play these matches and of course he is in fear he will miss it. We will see. We need to wait. Maybe we have a miracle and we make it possible.”
The challenge from James was so bad that Tuchel revealed he could not even watch the replay.
“I did not see the challenge live,” he added. “I just saw it from a distance on the iPad. I am not good at looking at these situations because it hurts me physically to watch it, but everybody told me it is a clear red card.”
Chelsea moved a step closer to securing Champions League qualification with the win, with Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic and Romelu Lukaku all on the scoresheet.