Chelsea boss Antonio Conte says summer signing Tiémoué Bakayoko could feature against Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday.
Summer signing Bakayoko, who has had a knee problem, featured in a behind-closed-doors friendly against QPR’s youth side on Thursday, as did Eden Hazard.
Hazard, who had ankle surgery earlier this summer, is not yet being considered for a first-team return.
But with Conte’s options limited, not least because Cesc Fabregas is suspended, the Italian says Bakayoko could be involved this weekend despite not being fully fit.
“Hazard is improving but to be fully fit I think he needs time. We must be patient with him and try to do the best for him,” said Conte.
“Bakayoko is improving very well. He is not at the top of his physical condition but I think he could be in contention because in this moment I don’t have other midfielders available.
Bakayoko, 22 who joined the Blues from Monaco for a fee of £40million in July, is yet to make an appearance for his new club after undergoing minor knee surgery earlier this summer.
Reports suggest the France midfielder has told Conte he’s ready to face Spurs, with the Premier League champions struggling with several injuries ahead of the Wembley clash
Chelsea sold Nemanja Matic to Manchester United last month – and are pushing hard to sign Leicester star Danny Drinkwater – and Conte admits he’s lacking options in midfield in the lead-up to the London derby.
He told the media: ‘I’m not worried about this and, for sure, at this moment it’s not simple but we must be strong to face this situation and it’s very important that I don’t find excuses.
Chelsea could also be without Pedro, who missed last Saturday’s defeat against Burnley because of an ankle injury.
Pedro trained on Friday but was still being troubled by the problem and is being assessed.