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Chelsea boosted with possible mid-January return of Essien

Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien is set to return by mid-January after a long lay-off with a knee injury. The Ghana international has not featured for the Blues this season after damaging his knee during pre-season training.

Boss Andre Villas-Boas says the midfielder could be back in first-team contention in as little as two weeks' time.

He said: "I think mid-January.

"He will be introduced to first-team activity in mid-January and contention properly I think we are looking at three weeks for him to gain form and start competing to the level that the others are.

"It could take less time if we are positive about it and maybe in two weeks he can reach that level of form to come back for the team."

Despite the midfielder's progress the next two fixtures against Aston Villa on New Year's Eve and at Wolves on Tuesday will come too soon for Essien, as well as fellow absentees Branislav Ivanovic and John Mikel Obi.

He added: "I think Ivanovic and Obi are making good progress but will continue to be out of the game, these two fixtures that are coming, and also Essien the same."

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Dave Williams

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