Fabregas hamstring injury opens door for Cuadrado debut
Cesc Fabregas is struggling to be fit for Chelsea's Premier League games against Aston Villa and Everton, which could open the door for the club's new signing Juan Cuadrado to make his debut.
Already without the suspended striker Diego Costa for the next two games,manager Jose Mourinho fears that Fabregas may not fully recover from a hamstring injury in time to face Villa or Everton.
The midfielder sat out the Premier League draw with Manchester City last weekend after injuring his hamstring against Liverpool in the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg.
Costa and Fabregas have been Chelsea's best players this season and missing both would be a big blow for Mourinho, even though relegation-threatened Villa should provide straightforward opposition.
Chelsea travel to Villa on Saturday before hosting Everton four days later and Mourinho will not want to take any risks on the fitness of Fabregas with the first leg of the Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain on February 17.
Ramires stepped in for Fabregas against City. He will be favourite to keep his place if Fabregas cannot play against Villa or Everton. But Ramires has only just returned to full fitness after struggling with injury, which could prompt Mourinho into handing a starting place to winger Cuadrado against either Villa or Everton.
Mourinho has the option of playing Oscar in a deeper role next to Nemanja Matic to free up a place in the front three for Cuadrado, or resting Oscar, Eden Hazard or Willian.
Having appeared in Europe only in the Europa League for his former club, Fiorentina, this season, Cuadrado has been included on both of Chelsea's Premier League and Champions League squad lists after joining in a £23.3m deal that will rise to £26.8m.
Meanwhile, West Ham United escaped lightly yesterday after Fifa found them guilty of breaking regulations in fielding Diafra Sakho in their FA Cup fourth-round win at Bristol City last month. Sakho played despite being withdrawn from Senegal's African Cup of Nations squad due to a back injury.
The regulations suggest West Ham should be thrown out of the competition for the breach, but Fifa has only levied a fine of 100,000 Swiss francs (£71,000). Given that the victory, secured by a goal from Sakho after he came on at Ashton Gate as a substitute, earned the Hammers £90,000 in prize money, the punishment seems lenient. (© Daily Telegraph, London)