Reece James is set to return to Chelsea first-team action in time for the Blues’ FIFA Club World Cup campaign at the start of next month, according to reports.

The 22-year-old defender has been missing since the end of December after picking up a hamstring problem during a 1-1 draw at Brighton.

England international James has been a key figure for Thomas Tuchel’s side this season, scoring four goals and registering five assists in his 16 Premier League games to date so far.

James has missed Chelsea’s last four Premier League matches but the Blues’ chances of challenging Manchester City for the Premier League title have evaporated in that time.

A run of just two victories in eight games has seen Tuchel’s side slip ten points behind reigning champions City having played a game more than Pep Guardiola’s side. 

Tuchel has been reliant on club captain Cesar Azpilicueta in the right-back role in James’ absence, while Callum Hudson-Odoi can be used at wing back, but he has been used in more attacking areas in recent weeks.

News of James’ reported imminent return is good news for Chelsea who can still win four cup competitions this season, despite their flailing attempts in the Premier League.

Before heading out to Abu Dhabi for the Club World Cup, which begins for the Blues on February 9, Chelsea host League One side Plymouth Argyle in the fourth round of the FA Cup, while they also take on Liverpool in the EFL Cup final that same month.

Chelsea will also be looking to begin the knockout defence of their Champions League title in February, as Tuchel’s side host French champions Lille in the last-16. James will also be focusing his attention of keeping his spot in Gareth Southgate’s England squad ahead of two March friendlies for the Three Lions.

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