Chelsea will be without Kurt Zouma for the remainder of the season after the French defender suffered a gruesome knee injury against Manchester United on Sunday.
A club statement revealed he is expected to be sidelined for six months after scans yesterday revealed he has damaged his anterior cruciate ligament and will require surgery in the next 24 hours.
Having earned a regular starting position following the arrival of Guus Hiddink, his absence could prove crucial as the Blues seek to reclaim their more familiar place among the upper reaches of the Premier League table.
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The 20-year-old has not only grown into a tailor-made partner for John Terry in the Chelsea back four since dislodging Gary Cahill from the first XI, but even outshone his more experienced peers.
Squawka statistics indicate Zouma has been the reigning Premier League champions’ most effective defender so far this season - having racked up a catalogue of impressive figures over the course of 23 appearances in the English top-flight.
The powerful Frenchman leads the Chelsea pack with 130 clearances, ranking him among the top 25 in the division and 50 clear of his nearest teammate, Terry.
According to WhoScored data, Zouma has also made more interceptions and boasts a higher tackles-per-game average than both of his central defensive colleagues, Cahill and Terry.
It is always particularly sad to see a promising young footballer rolling on the turf screaming in pain, but having Zouma’s excellent form cut short by an extensive absence rubs an extra pinch of salt into Chelsea’s wounds.
With Cahill chomping at the bit to reclaim his first-team status at Stamford Bridge, Blues fans are unlikely to be overly concerned about finding an adequate stand-in for the France international.
However, it will be interesting to see how Chelsea fare returning to the back four line-up which made them so hard to beat during their title-winning 2014-15 campaign under Jose Mourinho.