Mauricio Pochettino has confirmed that Christopher Nkunku will undergo a late fitness test ahead of a potential long-awaited debut against Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday.
Nkunku, who underwent knee surgery after sustaining an injury in pre-season, is back in light training as he approaches his first appearance of the campaign. Chelsea is reportedly hopeful of seeing Nkunku start in the Carabao Cup quarterfinal against Newcastle United on December 19.
This would require a return to action off the bench in the coming weeks, and Pochettino has acknowledged that it could happen in Sunday’s meeting with Brighton.
Asked about both Nkunku and fellow absentee Romeo Lavia, Pochettino told Friday’s press conference: “We need to assess tomorrow and then decide. They are close, but we need tomorrow to make a decision.
“Maybe Lavia is the more difficult [one] but we need to assess Nkunku for tomorrow.”
Reece James, Chelsea’s captain, will most likely not play for the team after receiving two yellow cards against Newcastle United and serving a one-match suspension.
“I think he was a little bit tired in the moment he got the second yellow card,” Pochettino said of James. “Many times he was injured and now, step by step, he is building his fitness.
“He knows he is still far away from his best condition, to complete 90 minutes. He is working really hard and he feels sorry about the situation; it was tough for him and the team.”
Pochettino added, “It’s good when the player is self-critical and feels responsible. He is doing well. It’s a thing that can happen that can be good because you learn for the future.”