Thomas Tuchel confirmed before the match that he was ready to take a risk on the fitness of Kovacic and N’Golo Kante as Chelsea went in search of a third piece of silverware this season.
While his side only needed one point to secure Champions League qualification, Tuchel made it clear how important the cup was to him.
Kovacic looked set to miss Wembley’s showdown with Liverpool after injuring his ankle in Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Leeds. Tuchel said the midfielder would need a miracle to get involved but further tests raised hopes he could start on Saturday.
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Tuchel has revealed that the ankle injury suffered by Kovacic in the Carabao Cup final actually helped his recovery after Dan James’ X-rated challenge in midweek.
The Chelsea manager said on Friday: “It’s quite surprising to be in a situation where we can try it, but Mateo wants to try it. The medical department has given the green light to try it.
“The advantage is that the ligament is torn anyway since the last incident so there is no new injury but great pain, it was very swollen.
“We hope that the time may be enough for him to get there. We will try in training and we will know more.
While the Croatian is in the XI, Kante is on the bench after missing the last two games with a muscle issue.
Kante has faced a late test to see if he can play, and he is among the substitutes along with Cesar Azpilicueta and Timo Werner with Trevoh Chalobah and Christian Pulisic favourites. Kai Havertz is absent.
“Now is the time to take a risk,” he added. “He’s trying too. He tried his hand in team training yesterday and has more or less trained everything.
“Hopefully no reaction. It was a reduced training session due to quite a long trip [time] and travel fatigue. It was not a high intensity workout.
“We’re going to try today with him. He’s keen to do it. I hope he gets to training 100 per cent so we can plan with him tomorrow. It would be good for us.”
Chelsea XI: Mendy; Chalobah, Silva, Rudiger; James, Kovacic, Jorginho, Alonso; Mount, Pulisic, Lukaku.
Subtitles: Kepa, Kante, Werner, Loftus-Cheek, Saul, Barkley, Ziyech, Azpilicueta, Sarr.