Reece James has hinted he is set for another spell on the injury table after limping off against Bournemouth – with Chelsea interested in Celtic’s Josip Juranovic as a potential replacement.
The England international suffered a knee injury and missed the World Cup in Qatar but returned to start his club’s 2-0 Premier League victory.
James lasted nearly an hour at Stamford Bridge before experiencing discomfort in the same knee and being sent off. He left the stadium with a knee brace.
On Wednesday, James released a statement on social media describing how “difficult” his year has been for him.
“2022 has been the toughest year yet,” he wrote. “I just want to thank you all for your support, none of you go unnoticed.
“It happens naturally [sic] me mentally, I’m just trying to deal with the cards that have been dealt to me. I hope your end of the year will be filled with peace, joy and happiness.
“I love you all, see you next year.”
Chelsea head coach Graham Potter admitted he was concerned about James’ backhand, adding that any team would miss the quality provided by the England right-back.
Potter, who revealed he planned to replace James an hour into the game, said it was “too early” to assess the extent of the 23-year-old’s injury but said added: “Obviously it’s the same area so we’re concerned.
“We’ll have to see how the next 24-48 hours go. It was kind of chopping action and then he felt something. We’ll keep our fingers crossed. He’s disappointed. We just hope it’s not so badly.
“Reece is a world class player. You see him from the outside, but it’s only when you work with him that you understand how good he is. He’s an amazing player. He would fit into any team in the world, so any team would miss him.”
Chelsea interested in Celtic’s Juranovic
With James placed on the treatment table for a period, Chelsea are one of many clubs considering Celtic right-back Juranovic.
Sky Sports News has been informed that internal talks have taken place at Chelsea to assess right-back options pending the full extent of James’ injury, with Juranovic a player Chelsea scouted for some time.
Sky Sports News revealed last week that Barcelona are interested in signing the right-back from Celtic.
A source said Sky Sports News he is the Catalans’ number one target for the job, if they can find a solution to their Financial Fair Play restrictions.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta said last month that the club would still struggle to sign in January despite improving financial health.
“Levers had to be taken, which were economic operations that saved the club from ruin, and now the club is in economic recovery,” he said. “But despite that, according to the financial fair play rules of the Spanish league, we cannot sign.
“We and other LaLiga clubs are also trying to convince LaLiga to be more flexible and allow ourselves other kinds of interpretations that can make Barcelona even stronger.”
Celtic wanted to keep Juranovic and there were talks of improving the terms of a new contract, but neither side could reach an agreement before joining Croatia’s World Cup squad. The 27-year-old still has over three and a half years left on his current contract.
It is understood Celtic will look to sit down with Juranovic again when he returns from his post-World Cup break this week, but the Scottish champions are bracing for offers, amid interest from the Premier League and European clubs.
Earlier this month, Celtic announced the signing of Canadian right-back Alistair Johnston on a five-year deal.
Analysis: James denied a perfect comeback by cruel injury
Sky Sports football reporter David Richardson at Stamford Bridge:
James looked like he had never been away.
Injured since October 11 with a knee problem that required surgery, James made an impressive return to competition only to end after 53 minutes.
James had been key to Chelsea’s 2-0 lead, tormenting Bournemouth on his left side and linking up perfectly with Raheem Sterling. The right-back was even denied a goal by Mark Travers late in the first half.
But soon he was dragging himself through the tunnel after suffering a problem in “the same area” as the problem he had just overcome.
Chelsea stuttered after James left. Cesar Azpilicueta – James’ replacement – was unable to provide the same attacking threat down the right.
Luckily for Potter’s side, they already held a decisive lead, but they’ll have a bigger problem if James were to be sidelined for another long stay.
Chelsea’s next six games
Sunday January 1st 4:00 p.m.
Kick off 4:30 p.m.
January 1 – Nottingham Forest v ChelseaPremier League, live sky sports – kick off 4.30 p.m.
January 5 – Chelsea v Manchester CityPremier League, live sky sports – kick off 8 p.m.
January 8 – Manchester City v ChelseaFA Cup third round, kick off 4.30pm
January 12 – Fulham v ChelseaPremier League, kick off 8 p.m.
January 15 – Chelsea v Crystal PalacePremier League, kick off 2pm
January 21 – Liverpool v ChelseaPremier League, kick off 12:30 p.m.