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LONDON: Thomas Tuchel hopes Mateo Kovacic can play through the pain barrier as the Chelsea midfielder battles to recover from an ankle injury in time for Saturday’s FA Cup final against Liverpool.

Kovacic limped out of Wednesday’s 3-0 win at Leeds after being caught by Daniel James in a tackle that led to the winger’s dismissal.

The Croatian is suffering a recurrence of a previous ankle problem and Chelsea boss Tuchel said after the Leeds game that it would be a “miracle” if he could feature at Wembley.

Despite having a heavily swollen ankle, Kovacic planned to train on Friday in an effort to show he is ready to face quadruple-chasing Liverpool this weekend.

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“We will try it today actually, which is pretty surprising news where we are in the situation where we can try it,” said Chelsea boss Tuchel.

“Mateo wants to try it and the medical department gave the green light to try it.

“The ligament is anyway stretched from the last incident, so there’s no new injury but heavy pain, and it’s heavily swollen.

“We’re hoping that maybe time is enough that he makes it.”

Tuchel believes Kovacic’s presence would be a huge boost to Chelsea’s bid to win the FA Cup for the first time since 2018.

The Blues have lost the past two FA Cup finals against Arsenal and Leicester, while also suffering a penalty shoot-out defeat to Liverpool in the League Cup final in February.

“In the game (at Leeds) he was very good and in general he has stepped up again,” Tuchel said of Kovacic.

“The quality and personality, his dribbling, carrying the ball, driving with the ball is excellent, a top team player.”

Tuchel also addressed the latest debate about Romelu Lukaku’s future, insisting it would not be a distraction ahead of the final.

Lukaku has endured a difficult season following his £97 million ($118 million) move from Inter Milan, although he has scored three goals in his last two games to push for a place in the team at Wembley.

Lukaku angered Tuchel in December when he hinted he wanted to rejoin Inter and said he was unhappy with the way he was used at Chelsea.

And now the Belgian striker’s agent Federico Pastorello has told the Italian media he wants to speak to Chelsea’s new owner Todd Boehly about a potential move back to Serie A.

“If he plans to talk with the owner maybe it’s not his plan to talk with me, so fair enough. Let’s see if he gets a meeting and he can get to talk, that’s his right,” Tuchel said.

“That’s what it is sometimes in football, the attention is so high that sometimes it attracts situations that you don’t want to have before big matches. But that’s the way it is.

“For me it’s not a distraction and hopefully for everybody who works for the team, and the player himself.”


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