Reece James could still be in contention to feature in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the 2022 World Cup, with the Chelsea defender ‘ahead of schedule’ in his injury recovery. James is battling to overcome a knee injury suffered in October but is now confident of making the plane to Qatar.
According to the Evening Standard, the 22-year-old has told friends he believes he will be ready to participate in the World Cup in some capacity. He is set to urge Southgate to include him in his final 26-man squad next week, even if he’s expected to miss the start of the tournament.
James was initially thought to be out of action for eight weeks after suffering a serious knee injury during Chelsea’s 2-0 win at AC Milan on October 11. Despite being given a knee brace to use for the first four weeks of his rehabilitation, the right-back has shown signs of quick healing, and he is already using it less by the day.
So much so that he is now considered slightly ahead of schedule in his race for fitness, increasing his chances of making the cut for the Three Lions. The update is a major boost for Southgate, who likely lost James’ Chelsea teammate Ben Chilwell through injury on Wednesday.
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Chilwell suffered a torn hamstring in the latter stages of the Blues’ 2-0 victory against Dinamo Zagreb, with Champions League games recently becoming a bad injury omen for Graham Potter’s players. It further limits Southgate’s full-back options amid uncertainty over James and Kyle Walker, who also faces a fight to overcome a groin problem.
But James’ chances of being in contention are ever-growing, and the report claims he has had a phone call with the England manager to update him on his recovery. Chelsea staff are also sending regular reports to the FA while he continues his rehab in Dubai.
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James’ recovery is borderline miraculous, considering his World Cup dreams were all but dashed less than a month ago at the San Siro. If he’s available for selection, Southgate won’t hesitate to use him in a three-at-the-back system he’s familiar with from his time in the Chelsea first team so far.
Kieran Trippier is expected to enter the tournament as England’s first-choice right-wing-back amid his stellar season at Newcastle United. But James’ inclusion would be a welcome boost and, in turn, could raise questions about Trent Alexander-Arnold’s hopes if Walker is also passed fit.
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