Pochettino outlines his strategy to ensure Reece James’ fitness at Chelsea
Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino has advised that he will continue to be “careful” with the fitness of club captain Reece James, who started his first game since August this week.
James has missed nine of Chelsea’s 13 games in all competitions so far this season because of a hamstring injury. The 23-year-old past injury record doesn’t make for pleasant reading, only making 16 Premier League appearances last season and missing multiple games in prior campaigns too.
The right-back had started to build up his minutes on the pitch since the October international break, coming off the bench against both Arsenal and Brentford in the Premier League. He then led the Blues out for Wednesday night’s Carabao Cup fourth round tie against Blackburn Rovers.
James lasted for an hour of the 2-0 Chelsea win, lacking match fitness and withdrawn early.
“The plan was to check at half-time how he was feeling, and after 15 minutes he starts to feel tired and we’re checking from the second half, and we need to be careful how we manage him,” Pochettino summarised after the game.
“We decided to make the change because I think it is important now, the progression, and being careful about not going back, sometimes…play 90 minutes and maybe take some risks, but we need to avoid this. We cannot 100 per cent avoid risk, but the plan is to go little by little.”
In light of that, it remains to be seen whether James will keep his starting place for the trip across London to face early Premier League leaders Tottenham Hotspur on Monday night – Pochettino’s first game against his former club since being dismissed four years ago.
Spurs boss Ange Postecoglou has praised the impact the Argentine had during his time there but joked he shouldn’t expect a guard of honour on his return.