Jose Mourinho is planning to bring goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois straight back into his starting Chelsea line-up this weekend, leaving Asmir Begovic to contemplate dropping down to the substitutes’ bench despite his good performances.
Courtois has trained fully with the Chelsea squad this week without feeling any significant pain and will be double-checked on Friday ahead of his planned return against Bournemouth.
The Belgium international has not played for Chelsea since the end of August after undergoing knee surgery and has missed the majority of the club’s disastrous start to the season.
Summer signing Begovic has performed well while Courtois has been sidelined, but that will not stop Chelsea manager Mourinho bringing the 23-year-old straight back if he is convinced he is ready and barring any setback.
That decision would appear harsh on Begovic, who has been one of the few Chelsea players to come out of the last three months with any credit.
But Mourinho and Chelsea rate Courtois as one of the best goalkeepers in the world and hope his return will help to solve some of the uncertainty in defence.
It is understood that neither Mourinho nor Courtois see much benefit in easing him back into the frame by putting him on the substitutes’ bench if he is fit.
Mourinho would also, ideally, like Courtois to get a game under his belt before next week’s vital Champions League clash against Porto, which Chelsea cannot afford to lose.
Despite the fact Begovic has made a series of impressive saves for Chelsea, the club’s defenders have struggled to get used to the fact that the Bosnia international is predominantly right footed.
Having been used to passing to the stronger left foot of Courtois, and Petr Cech before him, Chelsea’s defenders have continued to pass the ball back to Begovic’s left foot.
Although it may seem like a small point and has not been blamed on Begovic, the subject of the defenders passing to his weaker foot has been brought up as Mourinho has dissected every detail in a bid to get to the bottom of Chelsea’s dramatic drop in form.
Begovic was promised the opportunity to compete for a place with Courtois, when he agreed to move to Stamford Bridge from Stoke City in the summer.
But the 28-year-old is realistic enough to know that Courtois is Mourinho’s first-choice goalkeeper unless he suffers a dramatic loss of form.
Courtois was sent off in Chelsea’s first Premier League game of the season against Swansea City and had conceded six goals in three Blues appearances before his injury.
Despite their bad start, Mourinho sanctioned a Christmas night out for his squad on Wednesday evening with players given the green light to party into the early hours.
Pictures emerged of Diego Costa, Ramires and Kenedy leaving London nightclub Libertine at 3.15am, but Chelsea later revealed that the entire squad had been allowed a late night as part of pre-Christmas celebrations.
Mourinho decided this week was the best opportunity for the players to have a Christmas night out before the fixture list becomes busier and was confident it gave them plenty of time to recover before Bournemouth visit Stamford Bridge.
Despite partying into Thursday, Costa and the Chelsea players all reported for training at Cobham and completed a full session. The striker is still hopeful of returning to Mourinho’s starting line-up for the Bournemouth match.
Costa made no attempt to hide his anger at being left on the substitutes’ for Chelsea’s goalless draw against Tottenham, but there have been no issues with the 27-year-old in training this week.
Having dropped most of his star players and quickly reinstated them this season, Mourinho is expected to bring Costa straight back in the hope he directs his anger at Bournemouth’s defenders and responds to the wake-up call.
SOURCE: DAILY MONITOR