Cesc Fabregas is facing a race against time to be fit for Chelsea’s Carabao Cup semi-final second leg against Arsenal next week.
Head coach Antonio Conte revealed Fabregas had suffered a slight hamstring injury in training on Tuesday and Chelsea medics fear the midfielder could be out for up to 10 days.
That would rule Fabregas out of the trip to the Emirates with a place in the Carabao Cup final up for grabs, following last week’s goalless draw at Stamford Bridge.
Fabregas was substituted in the 58th minute of the draw with Leicester City, with Conte claiming the Spaniard and Eden Hazard were “very tired.”
Without Fabregas, Chelsea could not break down 10-man Leicester and losing the 30-year-old for any amount of time would be a big blow to Conte whose team have struggled to hit the back of the net lately.
Before the FA Cup third-round replay against Norwich City, Chelsea had failed to score for three successive games and Conte has insisted he needs more goals from all over the pitch.
Conte had hoped to hand Ross Barkley a Chelsea debut from the substitutes’ bench against Norwich City, but found out three days before the game that the midfielder was ineligible because he had signed too late before the original tie.
Chelsea have organised a training ground friendly for Barkley this week and the 24-year-old may have to be fast-tracked into Conte’s Premier League and Carabao Cup squads if Fabregas is absent.
The Blues face Brighton on Saturday before travelling to Arsenal and Conte cannot afford for his squad, which is already stretched, to be hit by key injuries.
While Conte plans how to get Chelsea through such a busy schedule, the club have stepped up their efforts to boost his squad with a new striker a priority.
Conte favours a move for Andy Carroll over the other target menwho have been offered to Chelsea in recent weeks.
Crystal Palace’s Christian Benteke and Red Star Belgrade’s Richmond Boakye, both of whom Conte admires, have been put to Chelsea, and may yet move up the club’s list.
But it is Carroll who Conte believes would best fit his short-term needs to provide a different option to Alvaro Morata. He wanted to sign Fernando Llorente, who was a team-mate of Morata at Juventus, in the summer and sees Carroll as a similar player.
West Ham United have made it clear they do not want to sanction a loan move for Carroll, which would be Chelsea’s preference, but they would listen to a bid in the region of £20m.
Chelsea are unlikely to match that valuation for a player with Carroll’s injury record, who has 18 months remaining on his contract, but there is optimism that there could be room for negotiation.
Carroll is understood to be keen to join Chelsea and have the chance of playing in the Champions League, and that could be key to any potential agreement.
West Ham would like to take Michy Batshuayi on loan as part of any deal for Carroll, but the Belgian is keen on joining Sevilla for the rest of the season and has emerged as a possible target of Borussia Dortmund.
The prospect of Chelsea signing Carroll has not been received well by a section of the club’s fans, but the 29-year-old is three years younger than Llorente and has scored as many goals (two) as the Spaniard in six fewer appearances this season.
Other than strikers, Chelsea are looking at left-sided players who could help ease the burden on Marcos Alonso.
Alex Sandro is Conte’s top choice and Juventus are still demanding around £60m to sell him this month, although that figure could drop in the summer.
That has forced Chelsea to consider other options, the latest of which is Roma left-back Emerson Palmieri who has only recently recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament he sustained in May last year.
Roma are likely to cash in on at least one player this month and the Serie A club value Palmieri between £22m and £26m, but Chelsea initially want to take the 23-year-old on loan. Chelsea and Roma enjoy a good relationship, having done business over central defender Antonio Rudiger during last summer’s transfer window.
Other than preparing this week’s friendly to help Barkley reach full fitness, Chelsea could use it to help Charly Musonda get match ready ahead of a loan move away. Fiorentina are the latest club to an express an interest, although Chelsea would rather Musonda remains in England.