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Mauricio Pochettino handed major tactical issue with Chelsea’s latest injury blow


Chelsea head coach Mauricio Pochettino will have to think outside the box to plug a gaping hole at right-back and left-back as the Blues prepare to face Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday.

Malo Gusto is still not ready to return to action from an injury that forced him to pull out of France’s Under-21 squad last month. The young defender had been back in training before Premier League football resumed, only to be absent from the matchday squad for the defeat by Newcastle United.

Chelsea’s latest injury update on Gusto is that he continues “undergoing his rehabilitation programme”, making his involvement this weekend highly unlikely.

That exacerbates a wider problem for Chelsea as Gusto has usually been the one to fill in for Reece James this season. The captain had been out of action for a couple of months earlier in the campaign and is now fully fit, but he is suspended for Sunday due to a red card last time out.

Reece James

Reece James was sent off against Newcastle / Stu Forster/GettyImages

When presented with no specialist right-back for a couple of games earlier in the season, Pochettino repurposed left-back Marc Cucurella onto that side of the pitch. But that isn’t an option for the visit of his former club to Stamford Bridge as the Spaniard is also serving a suspension for picking up five yellow cards in just seven Premier League appearances this season.

Cucurella had only come back into favour as a starting left-back because Ben Chilwell has been sidelined since September with a hamstring injury, which is still keeping him out.

It raises the possibility that Pochettino could hand a first Premier League start to Ian Maatsen in place of Cucurella. Levi Colwill, who played the first half against Tottenham and the last 15 minutes against Newcastle there is the other choice. But it doesn’t fix the problem at right-back.

The Blues lack another full-back and could instead use Axel Disasi, with Pochettino starting the Frenchman in that role for the 2-0 defeat by Brentford in October. If the Chelsea boss goes with Colwill over Maatsen and plumps for Disasi, it could mean the Blues lining up with four centre-backs.

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