Chelsea: How a rollercoaster return from injury has put Ben Chilwell’s World Cup role in jeopardy

Chelsea: How a rollercoaster return from injury has put Ben Chilwell’s World Cup role in jeopardy

Ben Chilwell is losing his battle to convince Gareth Southgate he deserves a starting spot at the World Cup.

The Chelsea defender has made just one start in four matches and has had to watch Graham Potter start Raheem Sterling at left wing-back in their last two games.

Chilwell is set to come back into the team for tonight’s Champions League dead-rubber against Dinamo Zagreb, but he is running out of time to prove his form ahead of Qatar.

With 19 days until England kick-off against Iran, Luke Shaw and Kieran Trippier are back to the top of their games at Manchester United and Newcastle.

So tonight feels like an important opportunity for Chilwell to impress ahead of tougher tests against Arsenal, Manchester City and Newcastle before the mid-season break.

His comeback season after his serious knee injury has so far not gone fully to plan.

It is approaching a year since Chilwell ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament against Juventus last November. He tried to return without undergoing surgery but suffered a setback during a Christmas Day training session and then had an operation.

Rehabilitation from such a serious injury was never going to be easy and Chilwell skipped his summer holidays to ensure he would be ready for an important season for club and country.

Chilwell did not play a minute at Euro 2022 and has been targeting the World Cup in Qatar.

 (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
(Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

The absence of wing-backs Chilwell and Reece James last season cost Chelsea, whose form dipped after losing two creative players who were crucial to their way of playing.

Chilwell targeted this season to get back to his best but the £63million signing of Marc Cucurella in the summer has not helped his bid to be playing regular football.

He and Cucurella played 477 and 475 minutes each this season but Potter has opted to experiment with alternative left wing-backs, including Sterling, with mixed results.

As a result, Chilwell has not been able to keep pace with his ambitions to be back at his best ahead of the World Cup. He feels he is physically over his injury, but has yet to feel the trust of Potter or get a run of games.

Underused and not match fit, this season has not been ideal preparation for his Qatar ambitions.