Chilwell, Sanchez and Lavia: Chelsea injury list & expected return dates ahead of Preston clash

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All the latest injury news and updates for Chelsea ahead of their FA Cup encounter with Championship side Preston North End.

After a brutal 2023 that saw Chelsea change managers three times, fail to qualify for Europe, sell a host of their experienced players before spending over £1 billion to replace them with an almost entirely new squad of raw talent, the disjointed Blues will be hoping 2024 is a significantly less harrowing ordeal.

And there's reason for optimism at SW6, too, with Mauricio Pochettino's side ending the calendar year with back-to-back wins over Crystal Palace and Luton Town. £40m summer signing Cole Palmer is staking a case for the Premier League's signing of the season, while the likes of Moises Caicedo, Mykalo Mudryk and Noni Madueke are at last starting to put in the performances necessary to justify their exorbitant transfer fees.

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Chelsea standing in the Premier League is far from ideal, but a return to European football next season isn't out of reach yet - they're currently just five points off 6th in the table, and they stand a good chance of winning the Carabao Cup and earning qualification for the Europa Conference League, with just Middlesbrough standing in their way of making it Wembley.

However, there's one issue that threatens to throw a big ol' spanner in the works of the Blues' rejuvenated locomotive: injuries. Chelsea currently have no fewer than nine players all jostling for a spot in the overcrowded treatment room, with the relentless churn of ever-inflating football calendar continuing to play havoc with the health of Premier League footballers.

Ahead of the Blues' weekend clash against Preston North End in the FA Cup, we've taken a look at the club's current injury situation, and when those stuck on the sidelines an expect to make their return to action:

Robert Sanchez - knee

With Djorde Petrovic impressing since deputising for Sanchez of late, Chelsea fans perhaps wouldn't mind the latter spending another week or two out of action. Initial assessments of the Spanish stoppers knee injury, which he suffered against Everton before Christmas, suggested he could be out until Feburary.

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However, recent rumblings suggest his return is more imminent, and he could be back in action sooner rather than later. The visit of Preston, however, should come too soon for him to feature.

Wesley Fofana - ACL

Losing your star defender in pre-season, for pretty much the whole season, really is the stuff of nightmares. The Frenchman is still undergoing his rehabilitation program for a brutal ACL injury that's likely to rule him out until the tail-end of the campaign. Even then, you imagine the Blues won't be rushing him back into action, given that he's one of eight centre-backs currently on the books.

Marc Cucurella - Ankle

Horrendous one week, stunning the next - you really never know what you're going to get with Cucurella. One thing we do know is that the former Brighton star and his vivacious barnet are going to be out of action for some time.

What initially appeared to be a case of a twisted ankle has now been confirmed to be more serious, with the Spaniard undergoing an operation before Christmas to treat the injury. As things stand, he's unlikely to be back until March.

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Reece James - Hamstring

The Chelsea captain has endured rotten, rotten luck of late, with every glorious return seemingly setback almost immediately with a fresh injury woe. After once again suffering a hamstring injury, the England international had surgery to address the issue.

Posting on social media following the operation, James said: "The footballing world knew I got injured but the procedure I would go down this time took slightly longer to figure out the best solution.

Chelsea skipper Reece James is hopeful his recent surgery will solve his recurrent injury problems.Chelsea skipper Reece James is hopeful his recent surgery will solve his recurrent injury problems.
Chelsea skipper Reece James is hopeful his recent surgery will solve his recurrent injury problems. | Getty Images

"I had surgery today to try fix my reoccurring hamstring issue, the recovery has started, both physically and mentally. Since the injury I've had a good amount of support but significantly more hate and negativity. Believe me I don't wanna be injured, I'm happiest when I'm playing football. Thanks to the understanding people that support me despite the highs or the lows, it goes a long way. Stay well, Reece."

Trevoh Chalobah and Lesley Ugochukwu - Hamstring

We've barely heard a peep about Chalobah's hamstring injury, which was picked up all the way back in August. His expected return date is still unknown. Ugochukwu's also got hamstring issues, but his situation looks far less dire. Pochettino hinted that he was in contention to face Luton Town last weekend, but was wary to involve the player too soon after his recovery. He could well feature against Preston, but there's an equally fair chance that the Blues won't risk it.

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Carney Chukwuemeka - Knee

We're still no closer to finding out when the ex-Aston Villa starlet will make his return for Chelsea. After an encouraging run of form, the midfielder suffered a knee injury back in August, before then suffering a setback after recovering in October. It appears that we're still a while away from seeing him back in action.

The 21-year-old posted a cryptic message on Instagram earlier this week, simply saying: "You can't rush what God is taking time to prepare for you."

Romeo Lavia - Thigh

Another of Chelsea's big money summer signings, Lavia has barely featured due to injuries this season. Speaking last week after Lavia was missing from the squad to face Luton, Pochettino said: "We need to assess Lavia in the next few days and see because he feels something. We still don't know if it is going to be a few days or a few weeks." As things stand, the extent of Lavia's injury and his possible return date are unknown.

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