Gusto worry, Palmer decision and Sterling task – Chelsea’s dream end to international break

Gusto worry, Palmer decision and Sterling task – Chelsea’s dream end to international break

We are now approaching the end of the international break with Chelsea in action in a few days’ time. The Blues take on Burnley on Saturday afternoon in what is an 11-game stretch until the end of the Premier League season.

Chelsea will be hoping there are 13 more games remaining of their campaign, as they look to upset the odds and progress against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final next month. Before that, though, the Blues face four matches in the Premier League – against Burnley and Manchester United at home, then a trip to Sheffield United and finally Everton at Stamford Bridge just five days before their second outing to Wembley this term.

Before all of the attention is turned to the trip of the struggling Clarets this weekend, Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping to have a perfect end to the international break from a Chelsea point of view. As Bobby Vincent explains below.

Palmer decision made

Cole Palmer missed England’s 1-0 defeat to Brazil on Saturday evening due to a minor injury problem. However, the Chelsea top scorer returned to training at St. George’s Park on Monday and is in line to pick up his third Three Lions cap against Belgium this evening (Tuesday).

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There is a lot of competition for Palmer within the England squad, with Gareth Southgate quite spoilt for choice when it comes to wingers, or attacking midfielders. The likelihood is, though, that Palmer will get a hefty chunk of minutes at Wembley on Tuesday night.

Pochettino will be desperate for his star player, who has been directly involved in an astonishing 25 goals in all competitions this season for the Blues, to be well looked after. Whether that is him starting and being taken off on 60/70 minutes or coming on from the bench. Pochettino needs Palmer in the best possible condition for an integral run of fixtures.

Sterling confidence

It was a really, really bad afternoon for Raheem Sterling in the FA Cup quarter-final victory over Leicester City. The 29-year-old was repeatedly booed by Chelsea supporters, not for the first time, in what was a poor performance from the attacker.

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Sterling missed a number of glaring opportunities, including a penalty in the first-half and a free-kick from the edge of the box that went embarrassingly high and wide. The Jamaican-born winger represents England and has been capped 82 times by the Three Lions, but has not been included in the last few squads.

He has been training with those not on international duty back at Chelsea’s Cobham-based training facility. Sterling looks a man very low on confidence at the moment and finding that belief once again is something that cannot really be done without being in a match situation.

However, Pochettino, Jesus Perez and the rest of the backroom staff at the club will have been in deep dialogue with Sterling in recent days. While many Chelsea supporters have turned on Sterling, Pochettino still seems to have plenty of confidence in the former Liverpool and Manchester City wide man.

Injury boosts

Chelsea still have a fairly lengthy injury list – as has been the case throughout Pochettino’s debut season at Stamford Bridge. Benoit Badiashile and Ben Chilwell returned to the squad against Leicester, with the latter starting England’s defeat to Brazil last week.

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Badiashile, meanwhile, who turned 23 today (Tuesday), has been at Cobham for the past week or so working with a small group of first-team players. Levi Colwill is still injured and working on his recovery.

Unfortunately Malo Gusto was withdrawn from the France Under-21s squad but there are some reports that it was due to a virus rather than an injury. Carney Chukwuemeka returned to Cobham last week to “work on his fitness”.

And apart from that, there are a lot of long-term absentees who will have been using this two-week period to step up their recovery. It looks unlikely we will see Wesley Fofana this season after he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) last summer, while the club are more hopeful of seeing Reece James again after the captain’s surgery on his hamstring.

Romeo Lavia and Christopher Nkunku are still undergoing their respective rehabilitation programmes, as is Lesley Ugochukwu. Pochettino will hopefully tell us more about the injury situation during his press conference later this week.

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