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Cole injury blow boosts Bridge's World Cup hopes

Ashley Cole faces a fight to be fit in time for the World Cup finals in South Africa after fracturing his ankle in Chelsea's 2-1 defeat at Everton on Wednesday night.

The England left-back is almost certainly out for the remainder of the domestic season and his place in Fabio Capello's squad for the finals in South Africa will depend on his rehabilitation programme.

England open their campaign on June 12 with a match against the United States, but Cole will have to convince Capello he is back to full fitness before the Italian names his squad.

Ironically, Cole's injury will provide former Chelsea team-mate Wayne Bridge with the chance to become Capello's first-choice left-back. Bridge has been at the centre of a media storm involving his former Stamford Bridge team-mate John Terry in recent weeks.

Chelsea are fortunate they have enough cover to cope with Cole's absence. Russia international Yury Zhirkov is comfortable at left-back and Portugal international Paulo Ferreira can also play in the same position despite being signed by former boss Jose Mourinho as a right-back.

Speaking about Cole, Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti said: "We are very disappointed because he's a very important player for us.

"Now we have to do our best to get him recovered quickly, although we have Yury, who is a fantastic full-back, so we can use him."

Asked about Cole's prospects of playing in the World Cup, the Italian added: "I don't know -- I hope so for him and for the England team."

Chelsea's defeat at Everton has left them just one point clear of Manchester United at the top of the Premier League.

Terry was at fault for both of Everton's goals at Goodison Park and the club have since given him permission to fly out to Dubai in a bid to patch up his marriage to wife Toni.

Terry left Heathrow yesterday morning and will miss Saturday's FA Cup fifth round tie with Cardiff at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea's setback on Merseyside left the players angry, especially after France international Florent Malouda had put them ahead in the first half.

"We are really frustrated because we had an opportunity to put more points on the top of the league and we failed, so it's a big disappointment," conceded Malouda.

"But we are still on top and we have to be aware that we can't lose points if we want to win the league."