Carlo Ancelotti insists Ashley Cole will be fit for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ after confirming the defender underwent surgery on his broken ankle early this afternoon.
The Italian coach believes there is every chance that the England left-back can return to first-team action before the end of the season and play for his country in the world showpiece. Cole fractured a bone in his ankle after a clash with USA forward Landon Donovan in Chelsea's 2-1 defeat by Everton at Goodison Park on Wednesday night, and Ancelotti admits the injury is a real blow.
"It's bad news because Ashley is a very important player for us," said Ancelotti. "But we have the opportunity to play Yury Zhirkov, another fantastic left-back, and I have confidence that he will do a very good job. He's played very well in the last few games, and has played very well at left-back as well as in midfield. I've said I have a lot of confidence in him.
In three months he will be ready to play, so for England he can play in the World Cup.
"He's a very good player. We wanted to buy him in the summer also for this - he could be an alternative to Ashley. Now his moment has come and I think he will be fit to do his best. I'm disappointed because Ashley is a very important player for us, but it can happen that a player gets an injury.
"I hope he recovers quickly and comes back before the end of the season. That's a realistic possibility. He will have surgery today and we hope to recuperate him quickly. In three months he will be ready to play, so for England he can play in the World Cup."
Cole's place against Cardiff in the FA Cup fifth round tomorrow will be taken by Zhirkov but the Italian is also resting a number first-team regulars. Goalkeeper Petr Cech and Nicolas Anelka are the most notable absentees along the captain John Terry - handed compassionate leave by Ancelotti.
Terry has flown to Dubai to see wife Toni following lurid allegations about an affair with the ex-girlfriend of former team-mate Wayne Bridge. "John Terry will not play tomorrow, but will be ready for the next game against Wolves," said Ancelotti. "I think he'll come back stronger from the break. He needed to have some days' recovery. I haven't spoken to him. I spoke with him after Everton and told him to rest for a few days. It was my decision to give him time off."