Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Chelsea already have a record right-back ready to replace Reece James following injury blow

Chelsea have been rocked by the news that Reece James has picked up another injury.

The Blues skipper had to be replaced in the second half during Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea right-back James has picked up another injuryGetty

England international James suffered a hamstring knock in training this weekGetty

New boss Mauricio Pochettino allayed fears the 23-year-old will be out for a long time, but it’s likely he will be gone for a few weeks.

The west London outfit have stated he will now start ‘rehabilitation’ after pulling his hamstring, as he joins Christopher Nkunku and Wesley Fofana on the sidelines.

James has been plagued by injuries in recent years – missing 25 games alone due to various knocks in the 2022/23 campaign.

A hamstring issue kept him out of the final seven matches, with the same injury costing him 13 matches the previous term.

His obvious replacement would be France youth international Malo Gusto, who joined from Lyon for £26million in the winter transfer window.

He made his Chelsea debut on Sunday after coming on for James, but Pochettino could be tempted to start one of his summer signings instead.

Moises Caicedo, who signed for a British record £115m from Brighton, may be a natural central midfielder, but he is more than capable at playing right-back.

Seagulls boss Roberto De Zerbi started the Ecuador international as an emergency right-back three times towards the end of last season as the club battled for a Europa League spot.

Pochettino could be tempted to play Caicedo at right-backGetty

Caicedo was trusted to start against three of last season’s top four – Manchester United, Arsenal and Newcastle.

Brighton beat United and Arsenal with Caicedo helping the south coast side to clean sheets in both matches, before they were beaten by the Magpies.

Though the 21-year-old was fortunate not to have been sent off for a nasty tackle on Gabriel Martinelli – labelled as ‘disgraceful’ by Gunners doctor Gary O’Driscoll.

It led the Brazilian winger to miss the club’s final two matches of the campaign, with Caicedo quick to apologise.

However, besides the challenge, it was arguably his best performance of the season as Brighton put on a masterclass at the Emirates.

De Zerbi was equally as blown away by his performances. “I think Caicedo can play everywhere,” he said. “He’s a top, top player.”

It was huge praise for a player who had never played that position in his career prior to the 1-0 win against the Red Devils.

Caicedo started as an emergency right-back three times last seasonGetty

Speaking after the victory over manager Erik ten Hag’s side, Caicedo said: “I’ve never played right-back. It was my first time at right-back and I tried to do my best.

“It was good. It was difficult because [Marcus] Rashford is a really hard winger to mark but I think I did it the best I could.

“[Joel] Veltman, Tariq [Lamptey], Pascal [Gross] are injured so he [De Zerbi] called me here, we had a meeting and he asked if I’d like to play in this position.

“I said, ‘If you want me to play there, I’d be delighted. I’ll try and do it the best I can’. It’s not my position that I usually play but I’ll try.

“He told me only three hours before the game, but you have to ready for anything on the pitch.”

And you wouldn’t put it past Pochettino from taking a leaf out of De Zerbi’s box as Chelsea look to start the season off strongly.

Next up for Chelsea is a London derby away at West Ham at the London Stadium – a ground they have won just once at in their last six visits.

With Romeo Lavia joining from Southampton for £58m, Caicedo could easily slot in at right-back, with the Belgian to play alongside Enzo Fernandez and Conor Gallagher in the heart of midfield.

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