Speaking to reporters on Friday, Blues boss Graham Potter confirmed Kovacic’s calf problem which forced the midfielder against RB Salzburg in the Champions League was nothing but fatigue. He is available for Saturday’s game.
Meanwhile, Koulibaly’s knee injury will keep him out of the south coast but he is in contention to face Dinamo Zagreb in the final Group E game on Wednesday night. Long-time absentees Reece James, N’Golo Kante and Wesley Fofana all remain on the sidelines until after the World Cup.
This leaves Potter with selection decisions to make across his entire team, starting with which roster to use against Roberto De Zerbi’s team.
Potter has been known to change formations from match to match and even during matches, so a back four and a back three are possible.
The decision to rest Mason Mount, Cesar Azpilicueta and Ben Chilwell midweek means they will all likely start. Azpilicueta would allow Chelsea to play in a back four with Ruben Loftus-Cheek also likely to come and refresh the squad after being left out against Salzburg.
Kepa Arrizabalaga will continue in goal and there is no alternative to Trevoh Chalobah and Thiago Silva in defence. Kovacic can be used as a substitute due to continuing fitness issues despite his recovery.
The biggest decisions come in attack after Pierre Emerick Aubameyang’s pointless performance in Austria on Tuesday, with Armando Broja pushing for another start after getting the chance against Brentford.
Predicted Chelsea XI: Kepa; Azpilicueta, Chalobah, Thiago Silva, Chilwell; Loftus-Cheek, Jorginho, Mount; Havertz, Aubameyang, Sterling.