Chelsea’s captain, Reece James, made a return to the starting lineup, giving Chelsea a much-needed boost. James had not started since the opening day of the season due to a hamstring injury. His presence in the Carabao Cup match helped lift the mood ahead of their upcoming clash with Tottenham.
Benoit Badiashile, who was also returning from a hamstring injury, scored the opening goal, and Raheem Sterling secured the victory. Still, James’ return to the starting XI was seen as the most significant development.
While James is still regaining full fitness and playing cautiously, he makes a considerable difference to Chelsea, providing an attacking threat from the right side. However, Mauricio Pochettino, the Tottenham manager, faces a difficult decision on whether to start the 23-year-old against his former club.
Pochettino knows the risk of rushing James back too soon, which could lead to another injury setback for one of his key players. James was taken off early in the second half of the Carabao Cup match as he started to feel tired, indicating the need to manage his return carefully.
Starting James against high-flying Spurs, in what promises to be an intense match, would be a significant step up in terms of match intensity. Pochettino acknowledged the temptation to play him for the full 90 minutes but emphasized the importance of gradual reintegration to avoid potential injury setbacks.
Chelsea is taking measures to address James’s recurrent hamstring issues without resorting to surgery. While a victory against a Championship side doesn’t necessarily indicate a complete turnaround for Chelsea, they are building momentum ahead of a challenging five-game stretch in the Premier League.