Tuchel handed huge boost as key duo return for Chelsea
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has received a boost ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final showdown with Manchester City after Edouard Mendy and N’Golo Kante returned to training.
The club posted photographs of the pair working with their team-mates at its Cobham training headquarters on Wednesday evening.
Keeper Mendy was replaced by Kepa Arrizabalaga at half-time in Sunday’s 2-1 Premier League defeat at Aston Villa after suffering a rib injury when he collided with a post.
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Midfielder Kante missed that game as a precaution after limping out of the 2-1 defeat by former club Leicester five days earlier with a hamstring problem.
The Blues face domestic champions City at the Estadio do Dragao in Porto with the biggest prize in European club football at stake.
The sides have already met three times this season with Tuchel’s side winning twice, Hakim Ziyech’s goal securing a 1-0 FA Cup semi-final win on April 17 and Ziyech and Marcos Alonso firing them to a 2-1 league victory at the Etihad Stadium on May 8.
Kante’s return may mean another Champions League final in which Mateo Kovacic starts on the bench.
The Croatian boast three Champions League winners’ medals but will break new ground by taking the field for Chelsea in Saturday’s final.
Croatia midfielder Kovacic featured across all of Real Madrid’s three straight Champions League triumphs between 2016 and 2018, but has still never played in a final.
The 27-year-old was an unused substitute in both the 4-1 win over Juventus in 2017 and 3-1 victory against Liverpool a year later.
So if and when he steps out against Manchester City in Porto on Saturday, he will break a personal duck – then quickly refocus on chasing the trophy.
“Obviously I was three years at Madrid and unfortunately I didn’t play in a final,” said Kovacic.
“It is never easy, but I played my part in that team, which was to be there and if somebody was injured or could not play, I was always there to help. That was my part there.
“Chelsea is a bit different. It would be huge for me to play in a final.
“When I left Madrid I said I would try my best to work very hard to one time reach the final and play, and thanks to God we are here.
“We’ll play a big game on Saturday, but in the end it is just important that the team wins.
“It is never important who will be the main figure or who will start the game, just the most important thing is the team.
“At Chelsea we showed we are a family, a team, and we will do that on Saturday – try to be a team and do our best to win the trophy.”
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