HomeNkunku could make Chelsea debut as Brighton visit Stamford Bridge

Nkunku could make Chelsea debut as Brighton visit Stamford Bridge

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Christopher Nkunku could be in line to make his Chelsea debut against Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday, with Mauricio Pochettino revealing the France forward is close to full fitness.

Nkunku has not made a competitive appearance for Chelsea since arriving from RB Leipzig in July, having suffered a knee injury in pre-season.

Before last week’s damaging 4-1 defeat to Newcastle United, Pochettino said Nkunku was recovering well but warned the Blues would have to patient with him as he adapts to the Premier League.

Having been forced to watch Chelsea’s inconsistent start to 2023-24 from the sidelines, Nkunku – alongside fellow new arrival Romeo Lavia – could be involved when Brighton visit Stamford Bridge, should the pair pass fitness tests on Saturday.

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Asked whether the duo will feature at Friday’s pre-match press conference, Pochettino said: “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 them.”

Nkunku finished as the Bundesliga’s joint-leading goalscorer last season, with only Germany striker Niclas Fullkrug matching his 16 goals in the competition in 2022-23.

His return would be a timely boost for Pochettino, who continues to wrestle with a lengthy list of absentees ahead of the festive period.

Captain Reece James is suspended for Sunday’s game after being sent off at St James’ Park last week, while Ben Chilwell, Wesley Fofana, Carney Chukwuemeka, Trevoh Chalobah and Malo Gusto are all injured.

Chelsea approach this weekend’s fixtures 10th in the Premier League table, having only won one of their last five matches in the competition – against nine-man Tottenham almost a month ago.

The Blues have conceded a total of 13 goals in those games, shipping four in each of their last two, and Pochettino wants them to cut out the mistakes as they attempt to climb the table.

“It’s not about the opponent,” he said. “It was Tottenham, Manchester City and Newcastle, and I think you would have said the most likely to take points was against Newcastle because they were playing a very tough game against PSG three days later and might be distracted.

“But then we beat Tottenham, played an amazing game against Manchester City and lost against Newcastle.

“We are our worst enemy. We need to focus on us.

“If we’re in a good place, for sure we’ll compete in a very good way. We’re going to pay attention [to Brighton] but at this moment we need to pay more attention to ourselves.”

Jon Fisher
Jon Fisher
Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.

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