Kai Havertz is a doubt for Saturday’s trip to Newcastle United but Chelsea manager Frank Lampard will be happy with Mateo Kovacic’s international performance against Portugal.
Havertz’s 14-day isolation period after testing positive for Covid-19 will be over by the time Chelsea visit St James’ Park at the weekend.
Given the impact of the virus and lack of training, however, it might be too soon to name him in the starting line-up.
In the 4-1 win over Sheffield United prior to the international break, Lampard opted to play a three-man midfield, with Kovacic playing as a No.8 in place of Havertz, and it worked quite well.
The 26-year-old provided the assist for Tammy Abraham’s equaliser in the first half.
The final output is what Kovacic has been lacking at Chelsea, having had just one goal and six assists in the Premier League since his arrival in 2018.
On Tuesday, however, he scored two goals against Portugal despite the eventual 3-2 loss.
Interestingly, Kovacic’s Croatia teammate Luka Modric also spoke about how the midfielder hopes to improve his scoring record by playing under Lampard, who was a renowned midfield goal machine.
Kovacic has the skillset to be a very dangerous player in the final third; we have all seen how he glides past players with ease.
But it looks like he has improved the timing of his runs into the box, which is the one thing Lampard was exceptionally good at as a player.