Chelsea are set to travel to the Persian Gulf soon as preparations begin ahead of the Blues return to Premier League action after Christmas. Graham Potter will take his squad comprised of names not in Qatar for the World Cup to Abu Dhabi for warm weather training and a friendly against Aston Villa, competing for the CBF Al Wahda Challenge Cup on Sunday December 11th, at the kick-off time of 6.10pm.
Despite having 15 names at the World Cup , Chelsea still boast a large enough squad to field a pretty strong eleven in the friendly, hopefully leading to a strong display against Bournemouth on the 27th of December. Chelsea will be highly aided by the boost of returning key players from injury which ruled them out of likely selection at the World Cup for their nations.
Reece James , Wesley Fofana and Ben Chilwell all suffered cruel injury blows in the opening months of the season, and all three defenders are aiming to be back fit when club football resumes. Clips have already circulated online of Fofana in training at Cobham and Chilwell continuing his rehabilitation from a hamstring injury, running on a treadmill. James is the biggest of the injured trio returning for selection given his electric form before the knee setback suffered at the San Siro in October.
The 22-year-old has become an essential part of Chelsea’s system in recent years, dominating the right flank by offering defensive security, goals and creativity. All of those traits were lost following his absence, as Potter failed to sustain the upturn in form witnessed after his appointment in September. Chelsea only won one of their six Premier League fixtures without James, losing half of them, only scoring one goal in the 4-1 defeat to Brighton.
The return of Fofana in defence will be a big relief to Potter whose options in that area were becoming slim. Signed from Leicester for £70million in August, the French defender had his opening months at Chelsea cut short by a knee problem and is likely in line to start against Bournemouth.
Another summer signing who could use this unique period to impress is Carney Chukwuemeka who is yet to start a game for Chelsea since his £20million move from Aston Villa in July. The 19- year-old midfielder has shown glimpses of his talent from the bench under Potter so far but offers a wildcard option in a vital area. Along with returning names, senior figures such as Jorginho and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have also been able to gain some rest during the World Cup and will also feature heavily.
Although most of the world’s attention will remain in Qatar until the 18th of December, Chelsea’s preparations beginning next week offer the chance for some fringe names to change the course of their season.