Chelsea v Blackburn: Pictures
Chelsea star Reece James can lead Mauricio Pochettino’s turnaround at Stamford Bridge after returning to full fitness. James, dubbed one of the best in his position in world football by his manager, has missed most of the campaign so far through injury.
The Blues captain suffered a hamstring problem on the opening weekend of the season but made his first start since his recovery in Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over Blackburn. James led his side to a 2-0 victory and can be the difference for Pochettino as he spearheads a recovery from a dismal 18 months.
Chelsea appeared to be back on track prior to last Saturday’s 2-0 defeat by Brentford. The west Londoners have lacked the impetus on both flanks that James and fellow full-back Ben Chilwell usually provide when fit.
James and Chilwell have both missed large periods of the season. However, James’ return is likely to give Pochettino a major boost.
Chelsea have struggled at full-back without James. Axel Disasi and Marc Cucurella have both deputised in the position but neither have had the same impact on matches, unable to burst forward and contribute just as effectively in attack as they do in their own third.
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James has endured a tough 12 months – he was injured just prior to last year’s World Cup and suffered a setback upon his return in January. Remaining fully fit will give Pochettino a player he dubbed world class on Wednesday evening.
“It’s really important. It’s important that your captain stay fit and can help the team. One of the best full backs in the world,” the Chelsea boss said.
“Unlucky he only played 70 minutes against Liverpool and until now didn’t play. Little by little he will get fit and cope with the demand of the games.”
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James’ return will allow Pochettino to make better use of his full-backs – something he did to relative success at Tottenham. The England star is one of Chelsea’s most potent players when it comes to delivering the ball into dangerous areas.
This season, Chelsea have frequently entered their opposition’s territory but failed to find a successful final pass. A frustration for fans has been the disjointed structure to attacks, with the Blues’ forwards struggling to get into games.
James’ reintegration into Pochettino’s team will help resolve that issue. He could be a very important piece in the puzzle, helping the Chelsea boss push his side back up the Premier League table.
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