Reece James injury; Zakaria impact; Nottingham Forest team news

Graham Potter has addressed the media ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Nottingham Forest on Sunday.

The Blues returned to Premier League action with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Bournemouth last time out but were granted no relief in their endless battle with the injury bug, with Reece James aggravating his knee issue and heading to the sidelines for another month.

Unsurprisingly, James’ fitness was a big part of Potter’s pre-match press conference ahead of the Forest game. Here’s the best bits.

How difficult is it coping without James? Did you learn anything from the first spell without him?

“If you go back to the Newcastle game, we had no Kepa, no Reece, no Wesley [Fofana], no Ben Chilwell, we lost Marc Cucurella with illness overnight, lost Ruben Loftus-Cheek after two minutes, had no [N’Golo] Kante, lost Cesar Azpilicueta after 20 minutes, and also had no Raheem Sterling. That was simply the period we were in, and we still have quite a few guys that are out.

“But that is the challenge of being in multiple competitions; there were multiple games in a short space of time with the World Cup coming up. Something I reflected upon during the break was when Ben, for example, gets injured, the effect that has on everyone. They are looking and thinking, ‘could I be next? Could I miss the World Cup?’ So it was difficult.

“Again, I’m not making excuses. I’m just telling you want I think of the situation. We have to deal with it. The break hasn’t been a positive one for us and I could’ve made lots of excuses had the result [against Bournemouth] not gone our way because we had four [senior] players for the first two weeks, then players dripping back in and the break people think we have to work with the players isn’t there. But you can’t make those excuses, you just have to win. And we did [against Bournemouth] so that’s good.”

Will it be easier coping without James now that a lot of those injured players are back?

“Absolutely. I think when we played the Milan away game, we had Reece, N’Golo was getting close and we were thinking he could be available, but then he has an injury at the backend of his rehab and then we lose Reece, we go from a healthy position to a not so healthy position.

“Our job is to try to get as many people back as we can. It’s been a real tough period, as challenging as there has been in my time as a coach. But we’re Chelsea and people don’t want to hear those reasons/excuses. We have got to get on with it and try our best to find the answers.”

Why do you think Chelsea have suffered so badly with injuries?

“There is a little bit of bad luck but I don’t think you should throw it to something you can’t do anything about. There is an element of luck, of course, but then there are other things that happen. But that is for us to try to learn from and get better with. Again, it’s been a challenging season and I don’t know how pre-season was because I wasn’t here. I can’t comment on that.

“Sometimes you have these situations; Liverpool had one earlier in the season. So it can happen, especially when you are playing so many games in a short space of time. But without knowing the full extent of pre-season, it’s hard for me to comment.”

Do you think Zakaria can step up for the second half of the season?

“Whenever Denis has played, he’s not let us down. He played in the Champions League against Zagreb and scored, so he’s shown his quality. I’ve said before, he has had to be patient because we have some good options in the midfield.

“It has to be remembered we didn’t lose for the first few games so it was hard for him to get that opportunity. But he has remained professional, worked really hard and it’s why he got his reward [against Bournemouth] with a decent performance and a contribution to a win.”

Are Mateo Kovacic and Hakim Ziyech back yet? What’s the latest on Edouard Mendy?

“Both of those guys will be back. Mendy we are not sure, we’ll have to see in the next few days. He has a problem with his bone [around his shoulder] that he picked up at the World Cup. He may still need a bit of time.”

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