Jose Mourinho has confirmed that John Obi Mikel required minor surgery on his knee in order to be match fit, and isn’t expected to return until April.
The Nigerian midfielder has been absent from the Blues’ last four outings, including the weekend’s victory over Tottenham in the Capital One Cup final, and when asked Mourinho delivered an honest verdict that highlighted the importance of now ensuring Nemanja Matic is available to start virtually every game.
During the game at Wembley on Sunday Mourinho played the young Kurt Zouma in the defensive midfield position - Matic was banned following his shove on Burnley’s Ashley Barnes - but it doesn’t look like The Special One wants to rely on him moving forward.
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In his pre-match press conference for the Premier League fixture against West Ham tomorrow night, which is sure to be a rough affair, he said - according to Goal: "Mikel had a little surgery on his meniscus," he told the press.
"We are expecting him to be out for about a month - one week is already gone. There is not too much optimism or pessimism.
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"I would say [he will return] first week of April."
Though Mikel’s absence probably won’t be one that decides whether or not the Blues end up winning the Premier League, he will be sorely missed if Matic is either injured or picks up another suspension in the coming weeks.
Mourinho’s current system relies on having an accomplished ball-winner protecting the back four whilst Francesc Fabregas sets about helping to break opponents down, and without such a presence the squad would be bereft of balance.
Mikel might not be as dominant as Matic, nor is he a certainty to stay once the summer transfer window rolls around, but he’s experienced in breaking up play, and he’s been used as a useful stop-gap since he arrived at Stamford Bridge almost a decade ago.
Amongst the games the African will miss is Chelsea’s second-leg against French champions Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, which is an incredibly important affair given that they only managed a draw at the Parc des Princes.
Also included in the period of recovery are fixtures against West Ham, Southampton and Hull City, with the former two seen as tricky ties given the fortunes of the respective opponents. If this does end up being Mikel’s last season at the Bridge he’ll be aiming to bow out with a selection of winners’ medals to boast, not just the one garnered for the Capital One Cup victory.
Chelsea fans, is your side good enough to take home both the Premier League and Champions League as well? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below...