Pulisic closing on Chelsea return but Lampard concerned about ‘overcooking’ USMNT star

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Christian Pulisic is nearing a return to action for Chelsea but Frank Lampard is wary of “overcooking” the winger and leaving him prone to injury.

United States international Pulisic struggled with muscle issues in his first campaign at Stamford Bridge and missed two months at the start of the year with an abductor tear.

The 22-year-old was impressive upon his return after lockdown, contributing five goals and two assists in all competitions.

Pulisic is yet to feature this term after going off in the FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal with a hamstring injury in August, but Lampard said on Friday that a return is on the horizon.

“No, Christian isn’t ready for the squad, nor is Hakim Ziyech, but they’re both training with us now, which is good news,” he told the media ahead of Saturday’s Premier League meeting with West Brom.

“We hope to have them with us in proper match contention over the next week or two.”

Lampard is keen to bide his time with Pulisic in particular, aiming to avoid any further injury setbacks when he eventually returns to action.

“There’s always a concern about a player’s fitness when the history says there’s been some injuries. Last season we did have them with Christian, I was questioned many times on him, when he did and didn’t play,” said Lampard.

“Of course, when you look at a player with his recent record, you’re trying to find the right balance of getting the best out of him, which we saw in big periods last year, and making sure you don’t overcook him and leave him susceptible to injury, particularly with a player of his explosive pace and balance. It’s a fine line.

“We’re working on that and Christian’s also very open to that. He wants to play, he’s so hungry to play and he’s very nearly fit now, but it’s certainly something we have to manage with him this season.

“We’ve all seen the talent and it’s something we want to get right. I’m not saying it’s a fundamental, chronic issue because it’s not, but we want to get as many minutes out of Christian – the really great Christian that we saw lots of last season – on the pitch.”

New signings Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell made their first Chelsea appearances in the 6-0 Carabao Cup victory over Barnsley on Wednesday.

While Lampard confirmed the pair could start at the Hawthorns, he is again wary of asking for too much too soon from players who are still working towards peak fitness.

“I believe they are fit enough to start, but I do also have to take into consideration the fact that we play another game with a pretty tight turnaround on Tuesday, then another on Sunday, and then the international players will maybe go and play three games for their country, so I’m managing that one,” he said.

“Having come through that game the other day as they did, I think particularly Thiago did start that game and had 60 minutes in the bank, so that was good to see.

“With Ben, I’ll maybe be a little more cautious just to make sure, his injury’s been a bit of a challenging one, so I’ll make those calls. But they’re in a good place at the moment.”


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