The Croatia international has been an influential member of the side since Thomas Tuchel’s appointment and he’s one of the few Chelsea players with experience of the latter stages of the Champions League.
However, the 26-year-old hasn’t featured for the side since a 4-1 win against Crystal Palace earlier this month, with a hamstring injury keeping him sidelined.
Tuchel suggested last week that a return against Fulham this weekend was a more realistic return date for Kovacic but the German hadn’t ruled out the midfielder making a speedier recovery.
However, Kovacic was once again absent from training today in a blow to Chelsea’s chances of reaching their first final since they won the competition in 2012.
Speaking to reporters, Tuchel confirmed Kovacic was the only injured player for the first leg.
‘The update on injuries is short, it is only Mateo Kovacic we are missing,’ said Tuchel.
‘Everybody else is available and in the squad tomorrow.’
Tuchel has transformed Chelsea since taking over from Frank Lampard in February.
Saturday’s 1-0 win against West Ham has solidified the club’s spot in the top four and the German believes the next challenge is to produce such performances on a more consistent basis, starting with the first leg against Real Madrid.
‘Maybe the next level is to keep the level,’ said Tuchel.
‘I strongly believe in my squad that we can do this. I truly believe we are capable of consistently producing high level football. The challenge is to keep the level.’