Chelsea star Reece James has given Gareth Southgate a major injury scare after he was forced off during their 2-0 win over AC Milan with a knee injury. The World Cup is now just over five weeks away and the issue could put his place in the England squad at doubt if it is serious.
The right-back was able to walk off the pitch on his own after picking up the injury in the 57th minute. He landed heavily after during the match requiring the attention of the Chelsea physio before he tried to carry on. It was quickly apparent that he could not and he was replaced by Blues skipper Cesar Azpilicueta.
He is likely to face a scan in the morning to determine the extent of the damage but it is less than ideal preparation for Qatar given the proximity of the tournament.
He is the third right-back to have picked up an injury within the last week, following the groin problem suffered by Kyle Walker and the twisted ankle that has beset Trent Alexander-Arnold. The Manchester City man is a particular blow in addition to James with the pair highly likely to be the starting partnership on the right-hand side of the defence.
Kieran Trippier is now the only one of England’s famous quartet of right-backs with no injury concerns ahead of the World Cup as a position of strength starts to look like a position of weakness for Southgate.
The injury issues could open the door for the likes of Arsenal defender Ben White and Leicester star James Justin as the England manager is forced to consider his options in the position. Ruben Loftus-Cheek could also be an outside bet given his impressive performances at wing-back when asked to play there by Thomas Tuchel in the past.
Chelsea boss Graham Potter had been highly complimentary of James ahead of the match with AC Milan, suggesting he had the potential to become a Chelsea legend.
“I think Reece is just a fantastic player and he’s a young player, so he’s developing all the time,” he said. “He’ll get better and better as we go. I’ve really enjoyed working with him, he’s got a lot to offer.
“He can play in any game in the world, he’s just tremendous. My job is to try and help him reach his potential because his potential is beyond the sky. For us, we love him. He’s so important for us.
“He could be a Chelsea legend, that’s the level that he has, the potential that he has. But for that to happen he has to be part of a successful team and that’s what we’re working towards.”
England supporters and Southgate will await news on James’ injury with bated breath. If he is ruled out of the tournament it would be a huge blow with the nation forced to go without one of their best players.