Tuchel admits Chelsea could be forced to start Kovacic and Kante against Wolves

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  • Chelsea
    Chelsea
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  • Thomas Tuchel
    German association football manager and former player

Thomas Tuchel has admitted Chelsea could be forced into the “crazy” situation of starting Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante in Sunday’s Premier League trip to Wolves.

Croatia midfielder Kovacic returned to training on Friday after isolating due to Covid-19, while Kante was back on the bench after knee trouble in Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Everton.

Kovacic has not played since late October due to a hamstring strain, with Kante not taking the field since late November.

Chelsea v Aston Villa – Carabao Cup – Third Round – Stamford Bridge
N’Golo Kante, pictured, might have to start for Chelsea in Sunday’s Premier League trip to Wolves (Mike Egerton/PA)

Ruben Loftus-Cheek picked up an injury in the Everton draw, while Jorginho’s continued back problems leave him a doubt for the Wolves trip too.

And Blues boss Tuchel admitted he could be pressed into fielding Kovacic and Kante ahead of schedule due to the injury issues and Covid-19 concerns.

Kai Havertz has tested negative for Covid and returned to training in a rare boost to the Blues, who will still be missing Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi at Wolves due to coronavirus isolation.

“Mateo had his first day in training, today,” said Tuchel.

“If you want to have my very honest opinion, we have again Jorginho a doubt for Sunday, because he’s in pain.

“We have Ruben Loftus-Cheek a doubt, because he’s in pain.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek is a doubt
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is a doubt (Mike Egerton/PA)

“So do we know that they can travel with us tomorrow? No we don’t.

“I don’t know if it’s possible for them to play on Sunday.

“So maybe we will start with N’Golo And Mateo.

“Would that be fair? No. Would that be possible? I don’t know, but maybe we have to.

“We need to find a balance now, because we put everything on Jorginho’s shoulders and on his responsibility.

“Maybe we are forced to do the crazy stuff that we wouldn’t normally do. But what’s normal? We miss key players and we find solutions.”

Chelsea slipped four points behind Manchester City in the title race courtesy of Thursday’s draw with Everton.

The Blues were wholly dominant only to be majorly profligate in front of goal, with Jarrad Branthwaite’s sucker-punch finish cancelling out Mason Mount’s effort.

Chelsea have claimed just three wins from their last seven league encounters, and are itching to push back to top form.

Ben Chilwell is also isolating after a positive Covid test, but remains a longer-term absentee due to his knee ligament injury.

Germany forward Havertz’s negative tests should boost Tuchel’s threadbare resources at Wolves – but the Chelsea boss admitted every day’s rounds of testing leave a nervy training ground atmosphere.

West Ham United v Chelsea – Premier League – London Stadium
Thomas Tuchel, pictured, admits Chelsea’s resources are being stretched to the limit (Adam Davy/PA)

“There are no more positive results at the moment,” said Tuchel.

“That’s a relief of course, but then the lottery starts again tomorrow morning and tomorrow afternoon.

“We’re happy in the moment that Kai has given more than one negative result. So he’s back in training, and let’s see.

“Of course we would prefer to play with all players in.

“But at the moment it does not make sense for me to reflect whether it’s better to postpone. It’s simply not my decision, it’s from the Premier League.

“If the Premier League makes the decision that this game is postponed we take care about it and we handle the situation.

“If they say we play, we focus on the guys who are here, and maybe we end up with N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic from the start.”

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