Essien and Alex potential for Chelsea
Michael Essien could be available for Chelsea's must-win Premier League game against Tottenham Hotspur after scans showed he suffered only a minor tendon problem in Saturday's victory over West Ham United.
Essien had to be helped from the field shortly before the hour mark of Chelsea's 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge after pulling up with what appeared to be a left knee injury. That immediately caused concern, with the midfielder having missed significant parts of the past two seasons with cartilage and ligament problems in both knees.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti attempted to play down fears of a recurrence of those issues after the game, describing the injury as "muscle" related. Scans today showed the problem actually was with a tendon, but the 28-year-old escaped any serious damage and will be monitored ahead of Saturday's Spurs match.
Chelsea said in a statement on their official website, www.chelseafc.com: "Michael had a minor problem with a tendon above his knee during the West Ham game and came off as a precaution.
"Scans show no significant issues in that area. We will look at him over the course of this week with regards to availability for the weekend."
The loss of Essien for the final four games of the season would have been a blow to Chelsea's hopes of retaining the Premier League title. The midfielder had begun to rediscover his form after Ancelotti restored the Blues' three-man midfield with John Obi Mikel in the anchor role, allowing Essien to get further forward.
Should the Ghanaian fail to recover in time for this weekend, his place could be taken by Ramires, who had been expected to return after two and a half weeks out with a hamstring injury. Fellow Brazilian Alex was also due to be be available on Saturday having also tweaked a hamstring in Chelsea's UEFA Champions League loss at Manchester United.
That was the defender's first start for four and a half months following knee surgery and he is desperate to play a part in helping the champions try to complete one of the greatest comebacks in Premier League title history.
"What we have to do is win every game until the end - that's something we are in control of," Alex told Chelsea's official matchday programme. "Sometimes, you need luck as well so, if we do win all our matches, we then need Manchester United to make mistakes.
"And we have the game against Man United at Old Trafford, so hopefully that will be one of their mistakes! This has been a difficult season, but we have to keep our focus on these last few games and you never know what is going to happen. It could turn into a very good season and we could be champions again."
Alex knows he has a fight on his hands to get back into the team after Chelsea splashed out £25million on his Brazilian team-mate David Luiz during the January transfer window.
"Sometimes, it's difficult for the coach to have so many players to choose from, but it's also nice for him to have this problem," Alex said. "He always has the option to have a strong defence and, even though it's difficult for the players who miss out, we all understand the situation. Everyone wants to play every game, but it's no problem.
"I like this club and I'm very happy to be at Chelsea. I feel like one of the experienced players now. Soon, I will have been here for four years and I'm 28, so there is still more to come. I want to stay here for as long as my contract has to run. Then I can complete the 200 appearances, maybe 300 or even 400. But 500? I think that's going to be difficult."