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Chelsea FC XI vs Zenit: Confirmed lineup, team news and injury latest for Champions League game

·3-min read
Chelsea FC XI vs Zenit: Confirmed lineup, team news and injury latest for Champions League game

Chelsea are without Mateo Kovacic in the Champions League against Zenit tonight after the midfielder tested positive for Covid-19.

Kovacic had only just returned to full training after missing eight games with a hamstring injury.

Thomas Tuchel had hoped the Croatia international would be available for Saturday’s clash with Leeds – but he will now have to face a period of isolation before he can make his long-awaited return.

Kovacic joins N’Golo Kante and Jorginho on the list of midfielders who are not available for tonight’s Champions League tie in Russia. Kante is still to recover from a twisted knee and Jorginho is out with a back problem.

But the setback for Kovacic is a particular blow after Chelsea believed their casualty list was finally beginning to ease.

Tuchel said: “He was in training yesterday with a big smile, but then he tested positive for corona today so is now isolating.

“I was aware that this could happen and I’m not happy about it, not only as a manager, but as a person. But this is what reality is at the moment so we have to be ready to adapt and secure people’s health.”

Chelsea’s midfield options have been severely hit in recent weeks. It has seen them drop seven points and relinquish their lead at the top of the table following Saturday’s shock defeat to West Ham.

Kovacic has been a pivotal figure since Tuchel took over in January and provided vital cover for Kante. Saul Niguez was signed in the summer to give the European champions more depth in midfield, but the Spain international has struggled to get to grips with English football – and starts at wing-back tonight.

Kovacic suffered his injury in training in October and Chelsea’s medics had been cautious in their approach to his recuperation to ensure there was minimal risk of a repeat injury.

But his extended absence has seen Tuchel’s side struggle – drawing two and losing one of their last five league games to drop down to third in the table.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Tuchel refused to accept that there are any major concerns about Chelsea’s form ahead of facing Zenit, and added: “We dropped some points against Man United, we found the solution to win a game at Watford.

“We lost with a freak shot at the end of a game at West Ham. So we’ve had this before, we had this before that we lose games. We don’t like it, but we are not worried. We know what to do to win games.”

Trevoh Chalobah is out with a hamstring strain picked up against Watford last week, while Ben Chilwell is still recovering from his knee ligament damage.

Better news for Chelsea is the return of Kai Havertz, who took part in training on Tuesday despite twisting his ankle in defeat to West Ham on Saturday and is fit for the bench.

Chelsea XI: Kepa; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Sarr; James, Mount, Barkley, Saul; Hudson-Odoi, Werner, Lukaku.

Subs: Bettinelli, Mendy, Alonso, Rudiger, Silva, Loftus-Cheek, Havertz, Pulisic, Ziyech.

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Zenit vs Chelsea FC LIVE! - Champions League match stream, latest team news, lineups, TV, prediction

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