Mauricio Pochettino has confirmed that Christopher Nkunku will undergo a late fitness test ahead of a potential debut against Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday. Nkunku, who underwent knee surgery following a pre-season injury, is back in light training and nearing his first appearance of the season.
Sources indicate that Chelsea is optimistic about Nkunku starting in the Carabao Cup quarter-final against Newcastle United on December 19. This scenario would necessitate a return to action, possibly off the bench, in the upcoming weeks, and Pochettino has acknowledged that this debut could happen in Sunday’s match against Brighton.
When asked about both Nkunku and the absent Romeo Lavia, Pochettino stated in 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.”
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One player ruled out for Chelsea is captain Reece James, who received two yellow cards in the previous game against Newcastle United, resulting in a one-match ban.
“I think he was a little bit tired in the moment he got the second yellow card,” commented Pochettino on 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 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.”