Club Focus – Chelsea – Ancelotti crosses fingers for injury-free international break in wake of Alex blow

Reigning Premier League champions and current table-toppers Chelsea will bid a temporary farewell to a number of their first-team squad as they travel the globe for the latest international break. A safe return to the club without sustaining injury for all players leaving Stamford Bridge will doubtlessly be Blues manager Carlo Ancelotti’s priority after his side opened up a four-point lead at the top of the Premier League. Defenders Ashley Cole and John Terry should start for Fabio Capello’s England in their sole 2012 European Championships qualifier against Montengro at Wembley next Tuesday. Also called upon by their various countries include Florent Malouda (France), Petr Cech (Czech Republic), Branislav Ivanovic (Serbia) and Yuri Zhirkov (Russia) who could all take part in two matches for their nations.

Chelsea were hit by news on Tuesday that centre back Alex could spend at least three weeks on the sidelines after sustaining a thigh injury in the 2-0 win over Arsenal on Sunday. The colossal Brazilian defender scored a trademark thunderbolt free-kick to seal three points at the weekend but was forced to withdraw from selection for his country’s international friendly matches against Iran and Ukraine in order to manage the injury. He would appear unlikely to face Aston Villa when the Premier League resumes on October 16 and faces a battle to be fit for his club’s trip to Russia and the clash with Spartak Moscow in the Champions League three days later.

Along with Alex, a number of Chelsea players will not be travelling to meet up with their national sides for various reasons. Frank Lampard missed England’s opening Euro 2012 qualifiers in September and he is yet to fully recover from the hernia operation that has kept him out since playing in the 2-0 win over Stoke on August 28. Likewise, Yossi Benayoun will miss Israel’s qualifiers with Croatia and Greece after injuring his calf against Newcastle in the Carling Cup two weeks ago. This season’s top scorer with seven goals in all competitions, Nicolas Anelka remains banned from joining France in the fall out to their World Cup debacle while Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou have not been called upon for Ivory Coast’s trip to Burundi in their 2012 African Cup of Nations qualifier. Nigeria’s preparations for their qualifier against Guinea were thrown into chaos after FIFA elected to suspend the nation from international competition due to government interference in the sport, meaning John Obi Mikel may also not travel.

Meanwhile, a selection of youngsters from Stamford Bridge will hope to lead their countries to victory in the European Under-21 Championships playoffs to seal a place in next summer’s finals in Denmark. Daniel Sturridge will meet up for international duty alongside club-mates currently on loan at other clubs; Ryan Bertrand (Nottingham Forest), Jack Cork (Burnley) and Michael Mancienne (Wolves) part of a Blue-based quartet that will attempt to fire England Under-21s past Romania over two legs, while Italy’s Fabio Borini will lead the line against Belarus Under-21s. A Chelsea defensive duo in Jeffrey Bruma and Patrick Van Aanholt join up with the Holland Under-21s and look to shut out opponents Ukraine.

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