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A ridiculous £370m XI of Chelsea’s injured players: James, Caicedo, Lavia, Nkunku…

Chelsea’s injury problem shows no sign of slowing down and it’s beginning to adversely affect the start of Mauricio Pochettino’s reign at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues have won just one of their opening five Premier League matches and their substitutes bench for the goalless draw against Bournemouth contained a number of youngsters that sounded suspiciously like Football Manager regens.

But we reckon you need look no further than the packed treatment room for an explanation for Chelsea’s woes. We’ve compiled a full XI of Chelsea injuries.

GK: Marcus Bettinelli

Asked if he’s ever had an injury crisis like this in his career as a manager, Pochettino told talkSPORT: “To be honest, no.

“We have too many important players out, it’s not that I want to make an excuse but they could help the team. It’s difficult to support all these injuries in a club where the expectations are so massive.

“It’s a situation where we need to be positive. Caicedo came back from international duty with a knock and Cucurella has a fever, some players you can count on to help the team to achieve what we want, and we use a few younger players through the academy.

“But the expectation at Chelsea is to win and we need all our players fit to help the team to compete for a place and make a stronger performance.

“It’s an obvious situation and we need to wait and work hard to recover the players and to have a strong squad.

“I’m sure that with time when we recover all the players and the squad is going to be complete, I think the quality is there.”

Bettinelli has been at Chelsea since 2021, but has made just one FA Cup appearance for the club in that period. Perhaps his absence isn’t the biggest loss in this XI.

RB: Reece James

The absence of James is much more significant to Pochettino’s plans.

With Ben Chilwell in tandem on the opposite flank, James put in an impressive display against Liverpool during Chelsea’s Premier League opener.

But the England international injured his hamstring in training shortly afterwards and has been missing ever since.

“It’s a sad moment because he’s our captain,” said Pochettino.

“He was so excited and full of energy to be our captain. We are going to assess him day by day. For sure he’s going to [come back] stronger than he was. It’s a few weeks.”

It is the latest blow for James, who only made 16 Premier League appearances last season in a campaign blighted by injury.

CB: Wesley Fofana

Fofana’s time at Stamford Bridge has been bedevilled by injuries and the centre-back is unlikely to feature before the end of the 2023-24 season.

He underwent anterior cruciate ligament surgery over the summer which is set to rule him out of action for several months. Fofana has made 20 appearances since his £70million move from Leicester in 2022.

‘It’s really sad, really bad news. We feel all so sad. All we can do is help him,” said Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino. “We know it’s a tough injury but we hope he can be as soon as possible with the team.”

Pochettino said he “hopes” Fofana can play this season but that “it is difficult”.

CB: Benoit Badiashile

There’s better news elsewhere in the backline and Badiashile is edging towards a return to first-team action.

The £32.7million signing from Monaco is yet to play this season after suffering a hamstring injury during pre-season. He also suffered a groin injury at the end of last season, which limited his playing time.

The defender is likely to need at least a fortnight before making his return but it’s a welcomed boost for Pochettino, who has chopped and changed at the back this season with limited success.

LB: Trevoh Chalobah

Chalobah is yet to make an appearance this season and was expected to depart during the transfer window this summer. A late move to Bayern Munich failed to materialise and he’s expected to leave Stamford Bridge in January.

The defender has been struggling with fitness since pre-season and is still undergoing his own personal rehabilitation programme. A return is expected sooner rather than later.

“Yes, of course,” Pochettino said recently after being asked about Chalobah’s future. “I am Chelsea. I am the coach. His future is going to be [here]. He is in our plans. No one is going to decide for me. He is going to be involved.

“Now we have finished the transfer window, he is going to be involved in the decisions. Chalobah and the other players in the squad are part of my plans. Some players don’t play, but that is my choice.”

Thomas Tuchel before the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park, Birmingham, December 2021.

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CM: Moises Caicedo

Caicedo was pictured with a strapped-up right thigh while away with Ecuador over the international break, suggesting that the midfielder was nursing a knock.

He was seen with what appeared to be some blue kinesiology tape strapped around his knee – a medical practice which assists movement and muscles around a joint.

Upon his return to Chelsea, he trained as normal at Cobham. However, the £115million signing was rested against Bournemouth and underwent further assessments on Monday. Expect him to be back soon.

CM: Romeo Lavia

Lavia is yet to feature for Chelsea, with Pochettino eager for him to catch up to the rest of the squad’s fitness levels before getting involved after signing from Southampton in the middle of August.

The Belgium international is said to have suffered a muscle tear on his ankle during the international break which could delay his Chelsea debut further. He’s not expected to play until October.

RW: Noni Madueke

Madueke was omitted from the matchday squad against Bournemouth due to a muscle problem – an issue which he picked up while away with the England Under-21s during the international break.

“Noni came from the national team with a muscle problem,” before the stalemate in Dorset. He’s expected to return for the match against Aston Villa this weekend.

CAM: Carney Chukwuemeka

Having impressed against Liverpool and West Ham, scoring against the latter, Chukwuemeka was forced off during Chelsea’s defeat at the London Stadium and is expected to be absent until the middle of October.

“I think it is not an issue that will take months, maybe weeks,” Pochettino said afterwards. “I hope we can be as soon as possible with the team again. He scored and then he got injured. Things happen that you cannot manage.

“A little bit unlucky but I think he can become stronger because he feels the way he needs to work and compete, he is young and for sure he will be much better when we start again.”

London, UK. 15th Jan, 2023. Carney Chukwuemeka of Chelsea during the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London.

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LW: Christopher Nkunku

Nkunku has been sidelined since being substituted against Borussia Dortmund in the club’s final pre-season game.

Having impressed in his initial outings following his move from RB Leipzig, the striker’s absence has been keenly felt by Chelsea who have struggled for goals in their opening Premier League matches.

“We feel very sorry about him,” Pochettino has said. He was doing well, he was very important player for us. I think the quality is there, one of the best offensive players that can play in different positions always is a big issue for us.

“Now it’s about not thinking too much about the injuries and being positive about when he can be again with us and recover as soon as possible in a good way.

“We are working in the market also, we are going to miss one player like this. The club is working, trying to find a solution, maybe short term, medium and long term to add the right profile for the team to perform for now.”

The France international is not expected to return before Christmas.

ST: Armando Broja

Broja hasn’t played for Chelsea since suffering a knee injury in a friendly against Aston Villa during the World Cup break last winter.

The Albania international may only have one senior goal for the Blues, but impressive loan spells at Vitesse and Southampton have proven he has got talent and potential in abundance.

“We need to wait also,” Pochettino said when asked about his potential return date. “He’s close but sometimes you are close but the last step is difficult after the injury he suffered. He has trained well, we have hope also.

“That is why we are assessing the squad and all of the things that happen. It is easy to say we need another offensive player, but I think we have offensive players and they need to recover.

“If you bring in a player that is not fit or needs to adapt to the Premier League, maybe you are going to spend the same time you wait for Broja, or Nkunku or Carney. Then you are going to create a mess in the squad.

“That is why we are working really hard to analyse the situation.”


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