Frank Lampard faces defensive injury crisis as Chelsea boss gives Christian Pulisic update

Christian Pulisic is certain to return for Chelsea’s trip to Brighton on New Year’s Day but full backs Marcos Alonso and Reece James face at least another week on the sidelines with glute and ankle injuries.

Captain Cesar Azpilicueta is also playing through a hamstring issue and, as a result, Frank Lampard is likely to start Emerson Palmieri at left back again despite the Italian being hooked a little more than half an hour into the comeback win away to Arsenal on Sunday.

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Asked how far James is away from returning, Lampard said: “Hopefully a week or ten days. He’s had a bit of a niggle around his ankle injury which he had surgery on in pre-season so that was a bit of a worry. The doctors are saying it will be a week or so.

“Alonso is similar, it is a back – top of the glute – kind of muscle injury. They are both in a similar boat, not terrible injuries but missing at a pretty crucial time.”

As for Azpilicueta, Lampard believes his skipper will be fit to face Graham Potter’s side, who have already picked up results against Tottenham and Arsenal this season, but admits that he is not fully fit.

“Hopefully not,” the head coach said when asked if the injury is likely to sideline the defender. “He felt it at Tottenham and came off towards the end, against Southampton he was feeling it during the game but with Reece James injured the options are less.

“He’s a fighter so he stayed on. But [against Arsenal] he says that he felt better so fingers crossed it will be more precautionary… hopefully Azpi will be alright.”

There was a more positive update on Pulisic, who missed the short trip to Arsenal because of a minor hamstring tweak but tweeted that he was 100% on Monday.

“It is a small hamstring [problem],” Lampard added. “I wouldn’t even call it an injury – after the Southampton game the lads did some strides and he felt cramp.

“He has trained at a low level, for me it was more precautionary against Arsenal. We…