Mauricio Pochettino drops Christopher Nkunku hint ahead of Brighton clash

  • Nkunku is closing in on a return from knee surgery
  • French forward hopes to start against Newcastle later this month
  • Romeo Lavia is also nearing a return from injury

Nkunku is closing in on a return
Nkunku is closing in on a return / Matthew Ashton - AMA/GettyImages

Mauricio Pochettino has confirmed Christopher Nkunku will undergo a late fitness test ahead of potentially making his long-awaited debut against Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday.

Nkunku had surgery on a knee injury he suffered in pre-season but is back in light training as he nears his first appearance of the campaign.

90min understands Chelsea are hopeful of seeing Nkunku start in the Carabao Cup quarter-final against Newcastle United on December 19, which would require a return to action off the bench in the coming weeks, and Pochettino has admitted that could come in Sunday's meeting with Brighton.

Asked about both Nkunku and fellow absentee Romeo Lavia, Pochettino told 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."

Reece James
Chelsea are without the suspended Reece James / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages

One player who definitely will not feature for Chelsea is captain Reece James, who was shown two yellow cards last time out against Newcastle United and will serve a one-match ban.

"I think he was a little bit tired in the moment he got the second yellow card," Pochettino said of 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 he 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."