Chelsea have suffered a major blow in the race for the Premier League title after it was confirmed Ben Chilwell will miss the remainder of the season.
The flying full-back sustained damage to his cruciate ligament in the Blues 4-0 win over Juventus in the Champions League last month and will now undergo surgery on his knee.
After fighting his way into the starting 11, Chilwell had enjoyed a superb vein of form at left wing-back, registering three goals and one assist in just six Premier League starts.
Blues boss Thomas Tuchel confirmed that the 25-year-old may require surgery last month, but it was hoped that the injury was not as serious as first feared.
However, with Chilwell set to go under the knife, it appears his current rehabilitation program will not be sufficient to aid him back to full fitness.
The Chelsea star will also be unavailable for international selection which will come as a huge hit to Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate.
Chilwell has featured heavily since failing to make an appearance at Euro 2020 and netted his first England goal in the 5-0 hammering of Andorra in October.
Daily Star Sport investigates how Chelsea might shape up with Chilwell sidelined for the rest of the campaign.
1) Stick with Marcos Alonso
Starting XI (3-4-3): Edouard Mendy; Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Antonio Rudiger; Reece James, N'golo Kante, Jorginho, Marcos Alonso; Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, Romelu Lukaku.
Sticking with the same formation that has enjoyed success so far this season, Marcus Alonso is the obvious choice to replace Chilwell.
The Spaniard is already deputising at wing-back, but Chelsea have slid from top spot to third since Alonso's continued presence in the starting 11.
Given a starting berth in Chelsea's last seven top-flight fixtures, the 31-year-old is a solid player at Premier League level but solid might not be enough with the Blues battling for a first title since 2017.
Chelsea are already eight points behind league leaders Manchester City and can't afford too many more slip-ups if they are serious about another title charge.
2) Find a replacement
Starting XI (3-4-3): Edouard Mendy; Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Antonio Rudiger; Reece James, N'golo Kante, Jorginho, Lucas Digne; Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, Romelu Lukaku.
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Having already spent heavily over the summer transfer window, with the arrival of Romelu Lukaku, Tuchel may be reluctant to splash the cash once again in signing a temporary replacement.
Consequently, Everton left-back Lucas Digne could prove to be a shrewd addition for the Blues with reports the 28-year-old could be available on loan.
Digne has consistently proven himself to be one of the top players in his position but has fallen out of favour at Goodison Park.
Toffees manager Rafa Benitez has not included the Frenchman since their 4-1 defeat to Liverpool in the Merseyside derby with Ben Godfrey preferred at left-back.
Do you think Chelsea should make a move for Lucas Digne in the January transfer window? Let us know in the comments section.
Chelsea are reportedly readying a move for the cast-out defender.
Though the Blues will face competition from Inter Milan with the Serie A champions also keeping close tabs on Digne's situation.
A six-month loan move would also appeal to the Nerrazurri who are firmly on their way to securing a second successive scudetto.
3) Recall a loanee
Starting XI (3-4-3): Edouard Mendy; Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Antonio Rudiger; Reece James, N'golo Kante, Jorginho, Emerson; Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, Romelu Lukaku.
Currently out on loan at Ligue 1 side Lyon, Emerson failed to hit the heights that were expected of him following a £17.6m move from Roma in 2018.
Despite making 71 appearances for Chelsea, the 27-year-old struggled to advance past Alonso or Chilwell in the pecking order and was shipped out to France for the 2021/22 campaign.
But with Alonso failing to fully grasp his opportunity it could be time to recall Emerson, even if only to provide competition for the struggling Spaniard.
Similarly, 19-year-old Ian Maatsen could also be recalled after enjoying a successful spell on loan at Coventry City.
Starting 20 of their 22 Championship matches, Maatsen has helped Mark Robins' side to an outside shot at the play-offs.
With both Roma and Coventry utilising a 3-4-3 the adjustment to life back at Stamford Bridge should be a simple one for either Emerson or Maatsen.
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