Chelsea defender Kalidou Koulibaly has not travelled to the Champions League tie against RB Salzburg after not fully recovering from a knee problem sustained at Brentford, manager Graham Potter has announced.
THE LOWDOWN: KOULIBALY MISSES OUT
According to the boss in his pre-game press conference, the 31-year-old joins N’Golo Kante, Reece James and Wesley Fofana on the injury table but the former Napoli stalwart’s problem isn’t a long-term worry unlike the other three.
One player who is available to the West Londoners and could start in Salzburg is Marc Cucurella despite being hooked in the first half against United, with Potter saying:
“He’s had a couple of issues, a bit of illness, he’s been on antibiotics, but he’s a lot better.”
THE LATEST: KOULIBALY KNOCK NOT SERIOUS
Speaking to the press after arriving at the RB Arena on Monday, the English manager confirmed the severity of the 31-year-old’s injury.
“It’s not too serious.
“This game was too soon for him. We’re hoping to get him on the grass Wednesday or Thursday, but he’s obviously not available for tomorrow night.”
THE VERDICT: CHANGE OF SHAPE?
After the previous encounter on matchday two of Group E saw the Austrians claim a point at Stamford Bridge in Potter’s first game in charge in SW6, also missing Koulibaly that night too.
Described by Garth Crooks as ‘special’, the 62-time Senegal international – who cost the Blues around £33m – has proven to be a colossus when fit, dominating in headers won with two aerial duels won per game and 2.2 tackles per game in both the Premier League and Champions League for the Blues, (via WhoScored).
In the absence of the 6 foot 1 rock, who journalist Siavoush Fallahi once dubbed “unreal“, Potter may field a back five with Ruben Loftus-Cheek expected to start at right-midfield, a position he’s occupied five times this campaign, with the London outfit knowing a win will see them confirmed as group winners with one game still left to play.