Chelsea FC will be without vice-captain Branislav Ivanovi after the right-back picked up a hamstring injury in Serbia’s 2-0 win over Albania during the international break

 

Blues’ boss Jos Mourinho confirmed in his pre-match press conference on Friday that Serbia international Branislav Ivanovi would miss the visit of Aston Villa due to a hamstring injury. The Portuguese claimed he had four options to replace the right-back: C sar Azpilicueta, Kurt Zouma or Ramires as makeshift right-backs, and academy graduate Ola Aina.

Mourinho also confirmed that England U21 international Ruben Loftus-Cheek was ready to start for the first team after developing in a mental, physical and tactical sense since joining the Chelsea FC first-team for training at the beginning of the year.

Ivanovi out, Loftus-Cheek could start

Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Friday, Mourinho confirmed that the Serbian would miss Aston Villa’s visit to Stamford Bridge due to a hamstring injury, as was widely expected.

He is quoted by the club website as saying: “We have only Ivanovi ‘s injury, and Courtois recovering, everybody else is available.

“I have four solutions: I have Azpilicueta, I have the adaptation of Zouma or Ramires and I have Ola Aina, an 18-year-old who has never played a Premier League game but hea s a boy with lots of potential. Hea s also an option.

“It depends on matches, opponents, the moment, but we have solutions.”

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The Chelsea FC manager said of Loftus-Cheek: “Ruben has been with us since January, working with us every day, having the opportunity to play some matches, having an evolution physically, mentally, tactically. I think hea s going to be a really top player. Hea s ready.”

Loftus-Cheek start a big moment for the Chelsea FC academy

If the midfielder does indeed start against Aston Villa as expected, it will be a momentous occasion for the Chelsea FC academy. Although Loftus-Cheek has played and started in the Premier League before, this is the first match of real consequence that he will play from the start — a huge step in the right direction.

Even though the opportunity might not have come about had the Blues’ first-team central midfielders been in the same form as they were last season, it is a positive that Mourinho seemingly feels confident enough to trust Loftus-Cheek enough to start him even when the team is desperate to get points on the board.

It won’t quite open the floodgates in terms of academy graduates coming into the first team, but it will give the youngsters hope — convince them that there is a pathway into the first-team when previously there seemed to be none.