LONDON ENGLAND - OCTOBER 03: Alex of Chelsea celebrates with fellow goalscorer Didier Drogba after scoring during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on October 3 2010 in London England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Both Yossi Benayoun and Alex look set for a return to the first team within two weeks. Carlo Ancelotti has set their target as the return leg of the Champions League quarter final between Chelsea and Manchester United at Old Trafford on April 12th as he attempts to get both players back up to speed following extended absences. Alex has been missing since mid-December, while Benayoun, acquired from Liverpool over the summer as an ostensible replacement for Joe Cole has mimicked our former player a little too closely and spent the bulk of the year on the treatment table with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Ancelotti was quoted today as saying both players are fine and training well and simply need to shake some rust off to make it back into the squad:
I am not sure about the home game [against Manchester United] but for the away leg they are ready. Benayoun is feeling good and he doesn't have a problem. He has been out for six-months and he needs to train properly to improve his condition but I think that in 10 days he could be ready to play.
Alex is the same. He doesn't have a problem on his knee but he needs to train gradually to improve his condition and avoid injury.
Source: Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle.
Alex's presence in particular will be a major boost for Ancelotti, as standout defender David Luiz is cup-tied in European competition. Without Alex, Chelsea are forced to play a centre back pairing of John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic, which severely restricts their flexibility and leaves the side worryingly vulnerable to injuries. Benayoun's return would have been far more welcome during the appalling spell when the entire central midfield was either injured or playing terribly, but he should still be able to provide another option in the middle - and, hopefully, spell Frank Lampard from time to time.