Thomas Tuchel struck a positive chord in the broadcast portion of his pre-match conference earlier today (Friday) regarding injuries, but in the embargoed print media-only segment, he’s let a possible huge concern slip, while also confirming that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will try to get back to playing quickly with a protective mask.
First, the good news. Yes, we’re doing good news first.
Our new striker could make in his debut before the international break, depending on how comfortable he feels in the protective mask that he has to wear while his fractured jaw heals. The 33-year-old is being fitted for the piece (at the usual mask-fitters place in Milan) and could play as soon as Tuesday, in our first Champions League group game, or next weekend, away to Fulham. We have two more games after that, Salzburg and Liverpool, both at home, before the two-week international break.
“We try with a mask. It depends a little bit on what the specialists say who create the mask for him. And then how he adapts to the mask, so maybe it could be Tuesday, although maybe this is very soon. So maybe it’s Fulham, maybe it is a week later.
“The very latest is after the national break, but we try to push things and Auba is happy to push things. He is out there now at the specialist to get his mask done and then he tries, I think, Sunday in training.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Telegraph
We can only hope it’ll be a Black Panther mask.
Now for the less good news. The potentially scary news.
Mateo Kovačić might need surgery on his knee.
We’re trying to avoid this, but just the fact that it’s a possibility, the fact that it’s playing on Tuchel’s mind despite the slightly off-hand mention of it, is a problem. The fact that Denis Zakaria’s signing was, at least in-part, motivated by this possibility, is a problem.
Kovačić has been dealing with this thing since the summer, and has tried to come back from it once already. He played 20 and 45 minutes in our last two games, respectively, already exceeding the physios’ recommendations in the second appearance (forced into it by Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s, minor as it turns out, hamstring strain).
It’s unclear what the exact problem may be — ligament? meniscus? something else? — “knee” and “surgery” is not exactly a phrase you want to hear associated with the most important midfielder on the team not named N’Golo Kanté (and who’s already injured).
“[Signing Zakaria was] an option that came in very late. It was related maybe not to the numbers that we should have in midfield but actually have in midfield. We have Kova, who has had knee problems over the last weeks, who can hopefully make it without surgery and will be available right now.
“He was a little bit on the edge of surgery or no surgery during the last weeks with N’Golo Kante struggling. Suddenly, we thought, is this enough? Ruben Loftus-Cheek suddenly had a hamstring injury which could have cost us maybe some games but fortunately, he is available for tomorrow but this was maybe the kind of situation.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Evening Standard
Zakaria doesn’t exactly have the greatest injury record either, it should be noted, so hold on to something. Things could get worse before they get better.