Chelsea suffer injury blow as Mauricio Pochettino confirms triple injury worry ahead of Burnley

Chelsea suffer injury blow as Mauricio Pochettino confirms triple injury worry ahead of Burnley

Chelsea continue to be without a host of key players despite the international break offering a chance for some of Mauricio Pochettino’s stars to recover from injury. It has been a common theme for the Blues all season and unfortunately is showing now signs of changing.

The club entered the final break of the campaign with a relatively small injury list compared to other points but even then there were six out. Just over a week on and that list has grown as Cole Palmer missed England training and the first match against Brazil through a knock – albeit minor – and Malo Gusto left the France Under-23s squad with a virus.

Carney Chukwuemeka joined his French teammate at the club’s training ground as well, “to work on his fitness at Cobham, as he looks to play a key role in the remainder of the season,” having missed England Under-21s’ win over Azerbaijan last week. He has had a series of fitness problems throughout the season, hence the heightened concern.

However, the ongoing problems are just as worrying as new ones. Wesley Fofana has been out for the entire season after picking up another long-term problem just weeks into Pochettino’s reign, not seeing him in training has been no surprise for a while now but others have seemingly gone missing.

Pochettino hoped that Lesley Ugochukwu’s Christmas Eve injury against Wolves wouldn’t be a serious one, but he has not been pictured in work by the club since. Cesare Casadei came back from his loan at Leicester to cover for his absence after January, but no real update has ever been given.

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With just ten games left in the league and a maximum of two in the FA Cup to come, it feels unlikely given the nature of the problems and also the way that members of the squad have picked up rebound injuries, that either he or Fofana will get onto the pitch between now and the end of May.

On the face of it that should be the extent of those definitely ruled out, but a lack of progress shown during the break has raised concerns again. Although the chances of Reece James, Romeo Lavia, or Christopher Nkunku coming back from their individual lay-offs against Burnley were slim, no movement at all publicly towards a next appearance is worrying.

James, the club captain, has now been out since early December and has been recovering from hamstring surgery. An initial prognosis of around three to four months lands right now in the sweet spot for talk of being integrated extremely slowly and carefully into the squad. The break would seem to offer the perfect chance to do but as of yet, four days out from facing Burnley at Stamford Bridge there has been no sign of him.

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The 24-year-old did return to solo sessions on the grass in the past six weeks but is evidently not deemed as ready for the step up. Having suffered the most setbacks of any player bar perhaps Ben Chilwell or Fofana, it runs the risk of making an end-of-season welcome back superfluous and risky even if it would be a massive boost.

Only last year, Chelsea lost Benoit Badiashile for months with an injury sustained in a calamitous run-in. They will be keen to avoid the same again here but there is still plenty to play for.

Nkunku, on the other hand, has been back since his lengthy initial injury between August and December. There has been no sighting of him at Cobham since he was brought on as a substitute in the eventual 1-1 draw against Manchester City in mid-February.

“We will see in a few weeks if he is available,” Pochettino said at the start of March. Nearly a month on and not being in international break training will certainly have the alarm bells ringing again for fans.

Like James, at his best Nkunku will be a major addition to the squad, a true game-changer, but the prospect of rushing him back in the next two months will have to be well-judged if they are to avoid aggravating the issues. The same goes for Lavia.

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He has cost Chelsea almost £2million per minute he has played so far this season – though he is of course a signing made with the long-term in mind – and is maybe the biggest worry of the lot. Along with Ugochukwu, the quiet nature of his absence has been a big worry.

Lavia hasn’t played since December 27 and his half an hour cameo against Crystal Palace. Pochettino ruled him out for the Carabao Cup final eight weeks later, and nearly a full month ahead of the game, and nothing has been seen of him since.

Without a clear impact or moment that caused the injury, Lavia appears to be some way off a return, especially considering just how much he will have to do to come up to speed and match sharpness at a crucial part of the season. While no news isn’t necessarily bad news, it’s not good news either for Chelsea who are also missing Levi Colwill with a toe injury.

He was absent from the final two matches against Newcastle and Leicester with what looked to be a relatively small issue. However, no sign of him at the Surrey training complex adds to the frustration and worry building up to the return of domestic action.

Their international break aspirations of having players come back to bolster the squad could hardly have been further from the reality.

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