Chelsea striker Didier Drogba looks set to return to the Chelsea starting line-up when the Premier League co-leaders face Burnley in the League Cup on Wednesday. Drogba, 30, has made two substitute appearances - in the 5-0 win over Sunderland and the 3-1 defeat to Roma - since suffering a knee injury in a goalless draw with CFR Cluj at the start of October.
The Côte d'Ivoire star was left out of Chelsea's 18-man squad for the 2-0 victory at Blackburn on Sunday, but assistant manager Ray Wilkins played down any fears that Drogba had suffered a set-back. Drogba, who has yet to score this season, is likely to be given a run-out against the Championship team Burnley at Stamford Bridge in midweek.
Wilkins also revealed that England midfielder Joe Cole, who has endured a stop-start season with a series of minor injuries, could also be in line to face the Clarets, as he works his way back from a hamstring problem. He said: "Didier has been out for quite a period. We brought him back for a couple of little run-outs but he's still not quite feeling good enough to come back into the fold so we thought it was best to leave him behind, but I'm sure that he'll be ready very shortly.
"There's no setback, he just doesn't feel that he's ready to crack on 100 per cent. There's every chance he could be considered on Wednesday, and Joe as well. He's had a little stiffness in the right hamstring but he's been out for three weeks, and when you're coming back you tend to pick up a few little injuries. Joe hasn't really had a fantastic recuperation period. He's done a lot of hard work, trying to get himself back fit, but he's put himself to the fore for us and made himself available when he wasn't quite 100 per cent fit, and we're delighted with that because he's shown great spirit."
That Chelsea are still top of the table even without Drogba is testament to the season being enjoyed by Nicolas Anelka. The Frenchman, who only joined the Blues in January, took his tally to 11 goals for the season by scoring both goals in the win at Blackburn, which took the Blues back above Liverpool at the top of the Premier League on goal difference.
And Wilkins feels the France striker, who is with the eighth club of his career and has scored six goals in his last four appearances, is showing he can adapt to the role of a lone striker. He added: "He's doing a fantastic job and he was exceptional against Blackburn. He's worked extremely hard at his game, and it's not his game to play up there on his own and bring people into the game and hold the ball up, but he's worked very hard at that aspect of his game and thankfully for him he's managed to knock in a few as well."
While Chelsea can look forward to key players returning from injury, Blackburn manager Paul Ince admits that his star striker, Paraguayan Roque Santa Cruz, will miss the League Cup trip to Sunderland in midweek due to a calf problem. Ince, who is already without the likes of David Dunn and Steven Reid, lost Vince Grella and Keith Andrews to injuries against the Blues and concedes his squad is badly stretched.
"We are not sure when Roque is going to be back," Ince said. "Things just keep rolling and it is disappointing. I want to get a settled side but players are getting injured every week and it seems to be the same players from my club. Roque won't be involved on Wednesday. He needs to start training again and we are not sure when he is going to train yet."