Chelsea: Christopher Nkunku nears injury return as Mauricio Pochettino sends warning to Cole Palmer

Comeback: Christopher Nkunku (Getty Images)
Comeback: Christopher Nkunku (Getty Images)

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino says Christopher Nkunku is closing in on a return from his hamstring injury.

The Argentine has Enzo Fernandez, Raheem Sterling and Axel Disasi back fit to face Manchester City on Saturday in the FA Cup semi-final.

But Nkunku, who joined last summer for £53million from RB Leipzig and has made just two league starts in an injury-ravaged debut season, remains out.

When asked about Nkunku’s recovery as he joins partial team training, Pochettino said: "We will assess him day by day. Now in the last few days, he is in some part of the training session.

“We will see what his reaction of his body is and how it is going to evolve. We hope to recover him and have him available and back before the end of the season."

Cole Palmer has stepped up in Nkunku’s absence to become Chelsea’s main goalscorer, netting 20 Premier League goals and 25 in all competitions.

Pochettino has been impressed by Palmer’s ability to shoulder extra responsibility and says the youngster has to get used to being the main star and increased exposure.

He said: “First, it is about consistently absorbing the pressure to play in the Premier League. We were talking as a coaching staff that it is about the (increased) demand in his private life. The demands are so much higher now because he is the top scorer.

“He needs to pay attention to different things than before. That will influence how he prepares, rests, sleeps, and expends the energy that he didn’t before.

“That’s why we need to be careful, I don’t know if the club has, but us [as coach] we have the experience to manage this type of thing when a young kid becomes a big star.

“We know, [people may ask] ‘why is he not performing? Why is he tired?’ It’s because his life has changed. It’s different when a player is used to that experience but he is dealing with experiences that are completely different from the past to him."