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Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic set to miss FA Cup final after Dan James challenge

By Mark Walker
PA Wire

Thomas Tuchel expects Mateo Kovacic to miss Saturday’s FA Cup final after Dan James’ reckless challenge in Chelsea’s 3-0 win at Leeds.

Kovacic was forced off in the 30th minute with an ankle injury, shortly after James had been shown a straight red card for his high tackle on the Croatia midfielder.

Chelsea cruised to victory and edged Leeds deeper into the relegation mire through Mason Mount’s early opener and second-half goals from Christian Pulisic and Romelu Lukaku.

But boss Tuchel said the satisfaction of his side’s timely return to form before they face Liverpool at Wembley had been tempered by Kovacic’s likely absence.

Tuchel, whose side halted a three-game winless run to move four points clear of Arsenal in third place, said: “He has a swollen ankle and is in a lot of pain.

“For me, like I say, I’m not a doctor and we need to wait for the examinations, but’s very unlikely that he can play. It’s absolutely bad news for us on our perfect evening.

“If he misses it I’m very disappointed because he was a clear starter.”

James is the second Leeds player to be shown a straight red card for a rash challenge in as many matches following team-mate Luke Ayling’s dismissal in Sunday’s defeat at Arsenal.

“I did not see the challenge live, I was focused on something else,” Tuchel said. “I saw it from a distance on the iPad and I’m not good at looking at these situations because it hurts me physically to watch it.”

Chelsea had dropped 10 points in their previous five matches, but made light work of victory at troubled Leeds, which edges the Blues closer to a Champions League berth.

Tuchel added: “I felt the team were very calm, very determined and very focused before the match and they delivered a performance to which we got used to over so many weeks.

Christian Pulisic scored the Blues’ second goal (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Wire)

“I’m very happy and it was necessary of course, given our situation and not only because we arrive now for a big match, but it’s very good to arrive for a match like Saturday with a calm mind.”

Leeds’ third straight defeat left them in the bottom three, level on points with Burnley who have a game in hand, and have two games left – at home against Brighton and at Brentford on the final day – to salvage a calamitous season.

Boss Jesse Marsch said James “felt terrible” about his costly 24th-minute dismissal, but refused to point the finger at his player.

“One thing is for sure, I’m not going to sit here and blame anyone,” the American said.

“We have to be aggressive against the ball. We have to try to win balls and sometimes now we’ve been a little too aggressive in certain situations and that has cost us.

“I think the situation with the table has something to do with it, has everything to do with our situation right now.

“We want to be aggressive, but certainly not cross the line.”

Leeds were dealt yet another injury blow when Jack Harrison hobbled off in the first half and Marsch said the winger would require a scan, while Raphinha was withdrawn as a precaution.

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Dive Deeper:
Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic needs a ‘miracle’ to play in FA Cup final after reckless challenge by Dan James
Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic needs a "miracle" to be fit in time for the FA Cup final against Liverpool on…
Thomas Tuchel admits Mateo Kovacic needs ‘a miracle’ to be fit for FA Cup final after Dan James challenge
Thomas Tuchel claims it will take a ‘miracle’ for Mateo Kovacic to make the FA Cup final after Dan James’…
Chelsea hopeful Mateo Kovacic’s FA Cup final hopes not over despite ankle injury
The Chelsea midfielder was injured in the win over Leeds
Thomas Tuchel verdict on Dan James red card challenge which rules Kovacic out of FA Cup final
The Chelsea manager has spoken about the incident which saw the Leeds United man sent off at Elland Road
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Chelsea team news: Thomas Tuchel facing midfield crisis for FA Cup final after Mateo Kovacic injury blow
Chelsea are facing a midfield crisis ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final against Liverpool.
Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic ready to play through pain barrier in FA Cup final
The Croatia midfielder is suffering the effects of an ankle injury he sustained in Wednesday’s win at Leeds
Get all your news in one place