Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel will have to ensure that both Mateo Kovacic and Hakim Ziyech keep themselves out of the referee’s notebook during Wednesday evening’s UEFA Champions League showdown with Atletico Madrid.
The Blues, who maintained their unbeaten start to life under Tuchel on Saturday, playing out a goalless draw with Leeds United at Elland Road, welcome the La Liga giants to Stamford Bridge for the second-leg of their last-16 tussle.
Chelsea are a goal to the good following the first-leg in Bucharest last month after Olivier Giroud’s stunning second half strike sealed a vital away goal and victory for the west London outfit.
Although the Blues, who last reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League back in 2014, before being knocked out at the semi-final stage by Atletico, got the better of Diego Simeone’s side in the first-leg it did come at a cost, as both Mason Mount and Jorginho collected their third bookings of the competition this season, meaning they are suspended for Wednesday evening’s second-leg.
Mount and Jorginho, who have both played key roles under Tuchel since the German’s arrival towards the end of January, were not the only two at risk of being slapped with a one-game ban in Bucharest, as both Kovacic and Ziyech also entered the contest with two yellow cards each to their names.
That, therefore, means that the duo will be walking on a very thin line when they welcome Atletico to Stamford Bridge.
Champions League rules state that any player who is guilty of picking up three yellow cards before the end of the last-16 stage of the tournament must serve a one-game ban, with the card system reset once the quarter-finals stage has been reached.
With that in mind, should Chelsea progress to the last-eight, Kovacic and Ziyech are in danger of missing the first-leg of their respective tie.
Kovacic is poised to return to the starting line-up against Simeone’s troops, who will arrive in London unbeaten in their last four matches, to cover the suspended Jorginho. Kovacic is likely to partner N’Golo Kante in the centre of the Blues’ midfield.
On Saturday, ahead of kick-off at Elland Road, Tuchel confirmed that he had decided to give the Croatia international a rest because he knew he would be required to replace Jorginho against Atletico.
“I don’t like to do this but in central midfield, we will miss Jorgi and Mason [against Atletico Madrid], so we took the decision to give Kova a rest,” he told Media prior to kick-off. “We normally don’t like this but we have two suspensions in midfield so we made changes.”
In the first-leg last month, Kovacic started in midfield alongside Jorginho but managed to get through the 74 minutes of the contest he played without being cautioned.
Ziyech, meanwhile, could be called upon to start for the second game in succession in the absence of Mount, despite coming under criticism for his showing against Leeds on Saturday.
The Blues have no other players at immediate risk of picking up a ban.