Chelsea have endured a dismal start to the Premier League season.

Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino has admitted he can’t replace captain Reece James and vice-captain Ben Chilwell when the players are injured. James has been out with a hamstring injury since August, with Chilwell hobbling off with the same issue during the closing stages of the Blues’ 1-0 victory over Brighton in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night.

In all the clubs, important players you always miss when they don’t play,” Pochettino told reporters on Friday ahead of Chelsea’s Premier League trip to Fulham on Monday night. “Of course we always miss top players. When they are at their best, of course they are some of the best in the world.

All of the team, we miss some important players. There’s only one Reece James and one Ben Chilwell. The club tried with Malo Gusto, Marc Cucurella and Levi [Colwill,] can play there.”

Chilwell is expected to be out of action for four weeks following his latest injury set-back, with Pochettino adding: “Bad news. The doctor said not a good thing, need to assess. But it doesn’t look good. It’s difficult to know now [how long he will be out for].”

James, meanwhile, could be available for selection in the coming weeks after returning to the training pitch following his hamstring problem. But he could first be forced to accept an FA ban after he reportedly confronted referee Jarred Gillett in the Stamford Bridge tunnel following Chelsea’s loss to Aston Villa last weekend

And in Pochettino’s latest update about the England right-back, he said: “He’s recovering well. I don’t know if he’s close or not because we assess him every single day but he’s started to do things on the pitch with the ball. He’s really well. He’s desperate to play for the team. Yes, I hope it’s close.”

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