Chelsea manager Graham Potter has been dealt another blow ahead of tonight’s Champions League clash against Dinamo Zagreb with Mateo Kovacic now a big doubt after missing training.
What’s the talk?
According to the Evening Standard, Kovacic missed training ahead of the European clash as the Blues look to manage an ongoing knee problem with the Croatian.
Kepa Arrizabalaga is also out after coming off against Brighton on the weekend meaning Edouard Mendy will pick up the gloves, whilst Kalidou Koulibaly is expected to be part of the squad tonight and for the remaining league games before the World Cup break, after missing the last three with injury.
Carney Chukwuemeka is also a doubt after training away from the squad during the latest session, youngsters Lewis Hall, Zak Sturge, Eddie Beach and Dion Rankine could link up with the first-team squad.
Big blow for Potter
Despite the Blues already doing the business in Group E, they have one game left which Potter would’ve liked to tinker and rotate in, but the injuries and fitness concerns may scupper that.
Without a win in three league games, it presents an opportunity for the Englishman to rest or drop some underperforming first-teamers and give chances to fringe players in a different setup with the West Londoners lining up in a back three formation for the previous six games.
One player whose been key to Potter’s early success is the so far ever-present Kovacic who has featured in every game under the new manager, but that run is at high risk of ending tonight after missing training.
The Croatian starred during their last outing in Europe, scoring the opening goal against RB Salzburg as Chelsea confirmed their round of 16 spot, he was rewarded a 7.8 rating from Sofascore, the third highest of the night, as he won four out of five ground duels in a battling performance.
He’s a key man in the middle of the park for the Blues with him sitting in the top 6% for passes attempted amongst other midfielders and incredibly the top 2% for progressive passes with 6.64 per 90 as he continues to shine in Potter’s possession-based system.
Dubbed a “beast” by Chelsea author Mark Worrall, the £40m arrival will be a tough player to replace for the 47-year-old who may look to start Ruben Loftus-Cheek or even hand a belated debut to Denis Zakaria, neither will be as ideal to Potter as the 28-year-old but with a massive clash on the weekend against Arsenal, it may make the most sense to stomach this one without the Croatian.