CHELSEA’S title charge suffered a major blow last night after defender Ricardo Carvalho was ruled out for at least four weeks with an ankle injury.
The 31-year-old suffered ligament damage in the 5-0 victory at Portsmouth on Wednesday night and may now require surgery.
Carvalho will definitely miss the key fixtures against Aston Villa and title rivals Manchester United, but Chelsea are hopeful the Portuguese centre back will return for the final three games of the Premier League campaign, plus any possible FA Cup final.
Carlvalho’s injury leaves Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti with just two regular central defenders in John Terry and Brazilian Alex after Branislav Ivanovic was also sidelined for a month after picking up an injury in the 1-1 draw at Blackburn on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Blues midfielder Michael Essien admits he doesn’t know when he can return from the knee injury that threatens to rule him out of the World Cup.
The Ghana international has not played for Chelsea since December and has suffered a couple of setbacks in recent weeks in his bid to make a return before the end of the campaign.
He said: “I was hoping to be available for the home game against Inter, but the healing has taken a bit longer because my knee kept swelling..
“In two weeks I ended up having four lots of surgery to try to get the fluid away from the area. Finally it seems to be OK and I am making progress. I know I just have to be patient and give it time to settle down and heal.”
Essien remains positive about his future, however, adding: “I am feeling mentally strong and I try to stay philosophical about injuries.
“There are worse injuries than mine and there are people suffering with far more serious problems than this.”
Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge has escaped FA punishment over an incident involving Portsmouth’s Tommy Smith on Wednesday.
Smith broke his nose after being caught by Sturridge’s elbow but the FA are happy the incident was dealt with at the time by referee Lee Mason.