Chelsea have suffered a major blow ahead of their crucial Champions League quarter-final second leg against Real Madrid, as defender Kalidou Koulibaly has been ruled out for several weeks with a hamstring injury.
The Senegal international, who joined the Blues from Napoli last summer, limped off in the 55th minute of their 2-0 defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday, after making a vital intervention to deny Rodrygo.
Interim head coach Frank Lampard confirmed on Friday that Koulibaly will miss Saturday’s Premier League game against Brighton & Hove Albion, as well as the return leg against Madrid at Stamford Bridge next week.
“He won’t be available for either game. It’s a hamstring injury and it’ll be a matter of weeks rather than days,” Lampard said in a press conference.
“It’s a disappointment for him and for us, but also an opportunity (for someone else). We’ll carry on without him and hopefully he’ll get fit as quick as he can.”
Koulibaly’s absence leaves Chelsea with a defensive crisis, as they also have Ben Chilwell suspended for the second leg after he was sent off in the first leg.
On Saturday, Lampard will have to choose between Marc Cucurella, who replaced Koulibaly on Tuesday but was at fault for Chilwell’s dismissal, and January signing Benoit Badiashile, who was not registered in Chelsea’s 25-man Champions League squad.
Chelsea will need to overturn a two-goal deficit against the European champions, who scored through Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior in the first leg.
The Blues have also struggled to score in recent games, failing to find the net in their last four matches across all competitions.
Lampard admitted that his team needs to improve their attacking urgency and belief, but insisted that he was not surprised by the scale of their problems.
“It’s not been a bigger problem (than expected),” he said. “I understood it before I came.
“Trying to address it is our job. There’s a lot of talk about belief and I’ve said that word myself in the last two press conferences, but the reality is it’s work to replicate (what we do) on the training pitch, and also to have enough urgency in our attacking game that we have numbers in and around the box and an idea of how we want to attack. That’s part of the work.”
Chelsea are currently 11th in the Premier League table, 17 points behind the Champions League zone,
They will face Brighton at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, hoping to end their goal drought and boost their confidence ahead of their decisive clash with Madrid next week.