Preston North End keeping tabs on Chelsea injury list ahead of FA Cup date as 'one of best full-backs in world' takes number to 12

Chelsea defender Reece James has suffered another injury setback ahead of Preston's trip to Stamdford Bridge in the FA Cup next monthChelsea defender Reece James has suffered another injury setback ahead of Preston's trip to Stamdford Bridge in the FA Cup next month
Chelsea defender Reece James has suffered another injury setback ahead of Preston's trip to Stamdford Bridge in the FA Cup next month | Getty Images
Preston's FA Cup opponents currently have 12 players on their injury list

Preston North End’s trip to Chelsea in the third round of the FA Cup might be more than three weeks away - but that doesn’t mean Ryan Lowe won’t have a keen interest in the Premier League side’s current injury problems.

Heading into the Blues’ weekend game against Everton, manager Mauricio Pochettino was unable to call upon nine first-team members for the trip to Goodison. Those absent included Ben Chilwell (thigh), Wesley Fofana (knee), Romeo Lavia (ankle) and Christopher Nkunku (knee). But come the final whistle, and after another defeat for Chelsea - their seventh in the top flight already this season - that number rose to 12.

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Goalkeeper Robert Sanchez (knee) and left-back Marc Cucurella (ankle) were both withdrawn early from the action at Goodison. But even more significant was the first-half substitution of club captain Reece James, who had to come off with a hamstring injury.

It’s yet another setback for the 24-year-old, who has been limited to just eight Premier League appearances this season and 24 top-flight outings since the beginning of the 2022-23 campaign because of injury issues. Indeed, the hamstring complaint that saw him leave the field early on Sunday was the England international's second of the season. On the opening day, James was taken off on 76 minutes against Liverpool and didn’t feature again for the Blues until October 21 - more than two months later.

A Chelsea statement said the right-back, whom Pochettino has described as ‘one of the best full-backs in the world’ would begin his rehabilitation programme at Cobham - the Londoners' training base. It’s not quite clear how long that rehab will take, but given his previous injury, it’s safe to suggest James will more than likely be absent for the Lilywhites’ trip to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, January 6.

Chelsea will no doubt hope that others currently unavailable for action will recover sufficiently enough to help out during what is always a hectic period in the English football calendar. Lavia, Nkunku, Chilwell and Malo Gusto have all supposedly returned to training, albeit light work on the grass, as they close in on returns to fitness. However, the likes of Fofana isn’t expected back any time soon following surgery on his knee in the summer. Neither is Chimuanya Ugochukwu or Trevor Chalobah.

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The Blues have games against Sheffield United, Newcastle (Carabao Cup), Wolves, Crystal Palace and Luton to navigate before welcoming Preston to the Bridge for what could then be their last hope of silverware this season.

PNE currently have Calvin Ramsay (Covid), Milutin Osmajic (groin) and Emil Riis (knee) among their walking wounded ahead of tonight’s trip to Huddersfield in the Championship.

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