Mauricio Pochettino confirmed Ben Chilwell’s return to the Chelsea squad for Saturday’s meeting with Fulham at Stamford Bridge after missing nearly four months with a hamstring injury.
The England defender last featured during the 1-0 home defeat to Aston Villa in late September but is set to be named in the matchday party alongside Benoit Badiashile, who has recovered from a muscle issue.
However, Christopher Nkunku remains on the absentee list with the manager revealing that the forward’s recovery from a hip problem has become “complicated”.
Carney Chukwuemeka, who has not played since the second weekend of the Premier League season, will be assessed ahead of the clash against Fulham, while Trevoh Chalobah is training with the first team having missing the entire campaign to date.
“It’s good news about Chilwell and Badiashile,” said Pochettino. “For sure they’ll be in the squad (on Saturday). We need to assess Carney Chukwuemeka.
“Trevoh Chalobah is working with the group, we’ll assess day by day. He’s doing well. They’re so close to being involved again.
“I am worried about the situation of Nkunku. (It has been) now 10 days that he can’t train. We’re assessing him.
“He suffered a small issue and it became complicated. After six months that we were waiting for him, he was so close to feeling comfortable, he started against Crystal Palace (on December 27th). We’re disappointed. We want him (back) as soon as possible.”
The France international was made to wait until December for his first start for the club following his summer move from RB Leipzig, after a knee injury sustained in pre-season ruled him out.
His absence places further pressure on Pochettino’s limited attacking options, with Nicolas Jackson away representing Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations and Armando Broja searching for form after returning from an ACL injury in September.
The PA news agency understands that striker David Fofana will join Burnley on loan for the rest of the season after his stay at Bundesliga side Union Berlin was cut short.
Meanwhile the club confirmed on Friday that Netherlands Under-21 international Ian Maatsen, who has made only three starts this season, has moved to Borussia Dortmund on loan for the remainder of the campaign.
“It’s good for the club, it’s good for him,” said Pochettino. “We hope he’ll have the possibility to play more than here. For both sides it’s a good decision.”
The manager called on his players to re-find the momentum saw them win four out five games in all competitions prior to Tuesday’s defeat to Middlesbrough in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final.
Victory against Marco Silva’s side in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off would see them at least temporarily move above eighth-placed Manchester United, while a win of sufficient margin could see them climb as high as seventh, their highest league position since November 2022.
“We didn’t perform badly against Middlesbrough,” said Pochettino. “We came from a few victories. We need to keep the momentum.
“It’s true that after the first 90 minutes we are 1-0 down. We need to keep the belief, the team is preparing well, confident for (Fulham). I’m so sure we’ll do a good job.
“But when you lose a game to a Championship team, you need to accept the criticism. We have the chance (on Saturday) to put all these bad feelings out by performing in the right way.”