Marc Cucurella is recovering from a spell in hospital that saw him lose 5kg in weight, one of the reasons why he has been replaced early by Graham Potter recently.
The former Brighton defender was replaced by Kovacic after only 36 minutes during Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.
The Spain international was drafted in to replace the injured Kalidou Koulibaly but was sacrificed as Potter made a first-half tweak to his system, bringing on Kovavic as he sought to bring some balance to the midfield.
Cucurella has completed just one full game since Potter’s appointment despite playing a major role under the same manager at Brighton.
The Chelsea boss insisted replacing him so early in the game against United ‘wasn’t an easy decision to make’ & said the change was made to ‘create a bit more pressure and stop them [United] building their attacks.’
However, AS report there were other mitigating circumstances leading to the player’s early substitution. Their report claims Cucurella recently spent a week in a London hospital with tonsilitis, in which time he lost ‘between four and five kilos’.
The 24-year-old came out of hospital more than two weeks ago but Chelsea’s tight schedule has prevented him from completing a full recovery after his spell on the sidelines.
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The Blues have already played seven games in October and are in action six more times before the World Cup, with their last fixture against Newcastle United on 12 November.
Cucurella was also substituted at the break in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Aston Villa on 16 October with Potter again citing tactical reasons.
‘I thought we had to probably be a back five, more so, and be a bit stronger in the midfield area so we just had to adjust it,’ he said.
‘Sometimes [changes] go for you, sometimes they don’t. Credit to the players, they’re all ready to fight, they’re all ready to help the team. So we’re in a good moment at the moment, but we know there’s another game coming.’
Following his £63million arrival from Brighton, Cucurella started all but one of Chelsea’s first six league games of the season.
After starting the 3-0 victory over Wolves, Potter’s first home win as Blues boss, he has been replaced in Chelsea’s last three in the Premier League.