Chelsea made it nine unbeaten under Graham Potter in midweek as his side picked up a huge victory over RB Salzburg to confirm a place in the Champions League knockout stages. It gives them a game spare against Dinamo Zagreb and could allow for further rotation.
The Blues don’t have too much time to revel in their achievements though as fixtures continue to come thick and fast before the winter break for the Qatar 2022 World Cup. Next up is a whole host of familiar faces for Potter as he makes the return to the south coast against Brighton in the Premier League.
The west Londoners already have a growing injury list amid a congested fixture schedule. Kalidou Koulibaly, N’Golo Kante, Wesley Fofana and Reece James are all unavailable after picking up unwanted injuries, leaving Potter limited in his selection. With that being said, football.london has taken a look at the injury concerns Potter faces ahead of the weekend’s trip to his former side, Brighton.
James has been ruled out for at least eight weeks with no return before Chelsea break up for the winter World Cup. The 22-year-old could miss the competition due to having a protective boot on for four weeks, though there’s a small chance he could be included in Gareth Southgate’s squad in the hope of recovering for the end of the tournament.
Hours after Chelsea posted that James wasn’t undergoing surgery, he tweeted: “The race against time is on… But we won’t give up.”
What Potter said: “The first thing is he’s in a brace for four weeks to stabilise the knee, then it’s rehab. So that will take, as we said, around eight weeks. That’s the latest.”
Expected return date: Unknown
The defender was absent from the squad to face United at the weekend after Potter confirmed he had picked up a knee injury in the goalless draw with Brentford. Koulibaly had started four of the last five fixtures due to the injuries suffered by Wesley Fofana and Reece James.
What Potter said: “He just felt his knee at the back end of the game against Brentford. It’s not too bad, but it’s too soon for him to play in this game.
“We lost Koulibaly, so we can’t play him, and then we’ve got a couple of players returning who recovered against Brentford. Thiago couldn’t play in the week.
“So it’s a case of managing the load and managing the games and picking a team that can be competitive and hopefully win the game.”
Chelsea have announced that N’Golo Kante has undergone surgery on his hamstring after specialist guidance and is expected to miss four months of action, including the World Cup.
The Frenchman hasn’t played since August 14 after leaving the pitch with a hamstring injury against Tottenham and will now miss the winter World Cup too. The statement regarding his update stated: “Following a successful operation, N’Golo is now expected to be sidelined for four months.”
What Potter said, prior to the announcement: “Historically, there are things which have happened which are a concern, and we need to get the bottom of that.
“It’s a setback in the last stage of his rehab, so again that’s worrying. But all we can do is get the right diagnosis, the right consultation and then try and help him get back to full fitness and enjoying his football.”
Return date: February 2023
It had already emerged over the weekend that Kovacic was still nursing a knee injury that started ahead of the season, while Potter’s last two attempts to rest the 28-year-old were foiled as he entered the play within the first half against both Brentford and Manchester United.
His presence in midfield has provided a huge boost to Chelsea in the previous three games and Potter will be hoping the concern is nothing severe.
What Potter said: “Feeling his calf, it was a heavy pitch, a bit of tightness and hopefully it’s not too bad.”
According to French news outlet L’Equipe, Fofana suffered a sprained knee and is set to miss up to four weeks of action. However, Potter doesn’t expect the young centre-back to feature before the World Cup break and hasn’t given an update since the extent of the injury was announced before playing Wolves.
What Potter said: “He is just progressing where he was. I don’t think we will see him before the World Cup.”
Expected return date: December 2022