Reece James "can compete" with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Aaron Wan-Bissaka for the coveted right-back spot in Gareth Southgate's England squad, according to Mario Melchiot.
James returned to Chelsea last summer following a successful loan spell at Wigan Athletic, and was quickly promoted into a senior role following Frank Lampard's appointment as head coach.
The 20-year-old made his first-team debut in September, and has since racked up 28 appearances across all competitions, scoring two goals.
The young defender has been tipped to earn a call-up to the England squad if he continues on his current trajectory, having already represented his country at U21 level.
Southgate is already spoilt for choice when it comes to right-backs, with Liverpool's Alexander-Arnold and Manchester United star Wan Bissaka considered to be masters of their craft. Atletico Madrid's Kieran Trippier is another good option for the England boss, but Melchiot thinks James is already capable of breaking into the team ahead of the trio.
The ex-Chelsea defender told Talksport: “When you talk about Alexander-Arnold I’m excited about him and the way he plays.
“He switches the play really comfortably. Wan-Bissaka is more defensive, but Reece James has the ability, he has the strength, he has the speed to keep up with people, and he knows how to work it.
“There are still a couple of things he needs to add to his game, but if he can become a regular with Chelsea he can compete with those two guys and why wouldn’t he want to do that? That’s why we play football – to compete with the best.”
James' progress at Chelsea was interrupted by the coronavirus outbreak in March, which called a temporary halt to the football calendar across all of Europe's major leagues. However, the Premier League has been cleared to resume from June 17 following a three-month hiatus, and the Blues are now back in full contact training ahead of a meeting with Aston Villa on June 21.
All remaining fixtures will be played behind closed doors due to the continued threat of Covid-19, with Chelsea set to welcome Manchester City to an empty Stamford Bridge four days after their clash with Villa.