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Chelsea could sign left-winger in January to replace Ben Chilwell | Chelsea

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Chelsea could be forced to sign a left-back in January after deciding Ben Chilwell needed surgery on an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Chilwell has been out of action since suffering a serious knee injury against Juventus last month, but Chelsea were waiting to see if the problem would heal naturally. Thomas Tuchel’s side were not the same without the England defender and it was hoped the 25-year-old would increase his title chances by making a quick recovery after returning to light training earlier this month.

However, Chilwell, whose rehabilitation was delayed after testing positive for Covid-19 before Christmas, is unlikely to replay this season after it emerged that the injury required surgery. The procedure is expected to take place this week and will leave Chelsea running out of options.

Chilwell’s absence is also a blow to England, who will play Nations League games against Germany, Hungary and Italy in June. However, the defender is expected to have recovered in time for next winter’s World Cup in Qatar. The most pressing concern is the impact his injury will have on his club.

Marcos Alonso is currently the only left-back defender available to Tuchel, with unconvincing alternatives Saúl Ñíguez, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic. Tuchel will be aware of overplaying Alonso and may decide to enter the emergency blanket market.

Chelsea could consider a loan for Lucas Digne, who fell out of favor at Everton. They have also been credited with an interest in Milanese Theo Hernández, but he would be expensive and difficult to sign at this point in the season.

Another option would be to remind Ian Maatsen or Emerson Palmieri of their loan periods. Maatsen, 19, helped Coventry push for promotion to the Championship and Emerson, who is on loan at Lyon, started when Italy beat England in the Euro 2020 final.

Chelsea, who are six points behind Manchester City at the top of the league, could do without N’Golo Kante and Thiago Silva when they host Brighton & Hove Albion on Wednesday night. Kante had a recurrence of a knee injury in Chelsea’s Boxing Day win over Aston Villa and Silva has a hamstring problem. Meanwhile, Tuchel is waiting to see if Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are ready to return after periods of isolation.

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