Chelsea faces a slew of injury concerns leading up to their crucial clash with Newcastle this weekend. Despite a challenging start, Chelsea’s recent form has shown improvement, with commendable results and performances during a demanding stretch. Notable draws against Arsenal and Manchester City, alongside a significant win over Tottenham, have highlighted the team’s prowess against top contenders.

However, Mauricio Pochettino’s early tenure at Chelsea has been marred by persistent injury troubles across the squad. As they brace for a busy fixture schedule, the Argentine coach remains optimistic about potentially seeing an end to these concerns.

The festive football lineup kicks off this weekend with a clash against Newcastle, a team grappling with their own injury setbacks. As Chelsea prepares for this crucial match in the top-four race this season, here’s a roundup of the latest squad issues facing the Blues:

Christopher Nkunku Having sustained a significant knee injury during a pre-season friendly against Borussia Dortmund, Nkunku has yet to make a competitive appearance for Chelsea. However, there’s a possibility of an exceptional early return. Since his summer transfer from RB Leipzig, he has been spotted training at Cobham, marking a significant morale boost for supporters.

After a series of hints on his social media platforms, where the star shared workout videos of his knee exercises, keepy-ups, and a recent message proclaiming ‘See you soon,’ anticipation grew. Pochettino also disclosed that the Frenchman is aiming for a swift return right after the international break.

Nkunku engaged in a social media challenge with fellow French teammates Ibrahima Konate and Colin Dagba, emerging victorious by achieving the highest number of button presses while balancing in a plank position with legs on an exercise ball. Images of the attempt were posted online by his trainer. Recent reports, however, suggest that Chelsea might opt for a cautious approach with Nkunku to prevent further injury, potentially delaying his debut until December.

Conor Gallagher

Before England’s win over Malta on Friday, Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate announced that Gallagher had come into the camp carrying a slight knock but that he was perfectly fine to train with the group. He admitted that the 23-year-old was ‘sore’ from something that happened in the 4-4 draw against Manchester City last weekend, but he was fine to start in the qualifiers as England gear up for the 2024 Euros, playing 45 minutes of the 2-0 win.

What Southgate has said: “He has got tremendous drive. This week was a classic for me. He has come with a bit of a knock from the weekend but he walked through the door saying ‘it is a bit sore but I will be fine for Friday’.

“There was no way he was going home, there was no way he wasn’t going to give himself every chance. He wasn’t able to train for the first few days but he was determined he would be available and that, in a nutshell, is what is going to be one of his greatest strengths which will allow himself to achieve everything he might in the game because his mentality is outstanding.”

Possible return date: Newcastle United (A) – Saturday, November 25

Wesley Fofana

Fofana is set to miss most of the season after rupturing his ACL in pre-season training ahead of the tour of America. Yet, while it remains to be seen when he will return, he’s posted a promising update to his Instagram story.

The star posted an image of his feet, wearing football boots and with the phrase ‘After [a] long time’ and a running emoji alongside a football emoji.

Possible return date: April 2024

Malo Gusto

Gusto was selected as part of France’s Under-21 squad after being called up by Thierry Henry. Nantes full-back Quentin Merlin joined him in pulling out and Stade Brestois’s Bradley Locko was the only player selected in reaction for games against Austria and South Korea.

Possible return date: Newcastle United (A) – Saturday, November 25

Reece James

Reece James was called up by Gareth Southgate into England’s squad for the final two Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia. However, James rejected the chance to join up with the camp.

What Southgate said: “I was hoping to call up Reece James but he doesn’t feel he’s quite ready. I understand that, he’s had a long path back from a number of injuries. He’s probably a bit cautious in that respect, but I can understand why.”

He added: “We’ve got belief in what he can do. We did discuss [reporting for duty to attend team meetings] and he was very keen to make clear, ‘Look I don’t want you to think I don’t want to be there’.

“We had a really good long conversation and exchange of messages after that as well. But I’m very understanding. His injury record, you can see the number of matches and the different phases. So we are all conscious that we want to have a fit Reece that can play consecutive games.”

Levi Colwill

Colwill missed Sunday’s game due to a shoulder injury, understands. The 20-year-old had started all 11 of the Blues’ opening Premier League games of the season after returning from his successful loan spell at Brighton & Hove Albion.

The defender was named in the England squad but later pulled out due to injury.

What Pochettino has said: “I don’t know, Jesus, how is Levi? [press officer: we’ll update in the next 24 hours].”

Possible return date: Newcastle United (A) – Saturday, November 25

Romeo Lavia

On Friday afternoon, Lavia posted a selfie to his Instagram story. The youngster also accompanied the image with a picture of his tied football boots, with a smiley face and blue heart emoji as his caption.

Lavia has been nursing an ankle issue since he arrived at Stamford Bridge and he’s still yet to make his debut for the Blues. Last month, the Belgian was dealt a major setback on his road to recovery, pushing his return date back to late November, maybe December.

What Pochettino said: “Romeo Lavia is also close. They trained today on the pitch. Hope that next week will be involved with the team and see after. Day by day see when it is possible to play with the team.”

Possible return date: December.

Trevoh Chalobah

Chalobah has been nursing a thigh injury and is still yet to feature for Chelsea this season. He has been seen in training in the gym at Cobham during the international break.

Possible return date: Unknown.

Carney Chukwuemeka

Chukwuemeka picked up a knock ahead of the game with Arsenal and then made the bench against Burnley, but the midfielder has since been hit with another setback. He has struggled with a knee problem which he suffered against West Ham earlier in the campaign.

Possible return date: Unknown