Reece James faces an uphill battle upon his return from injury, with Malo Gusto holding his own in the Chelsea starting lineup
Malo GUSTO of France during the International Friendly U21 match between France and Denmark at Stade Marcel Picot on September 7, 2023
Malo Gusto sends message as Mauricio Pochettino given Reece James headache
Malo Gusto has claimed that he’s ‘excited’ to return to Chelsea following the international break. The 20-year-old defender has impressed for the Blues in Reece James’ absence this season, earning a call-up to the France Under-21s from Thierry Henry.
He had already appeared seven times for Les Bleuets prior to his arrival at Stamford Bridge this summer. However, a hamstring injury towards the end of last term at saw Gusto miss a handful of friendlies and, therefore, the Under-21 European Championships too.
Ironically, it was a Ukraine side spearheaded by Mykhailo Mudryk which knocked France out in the quarter-finals. Since Gusto’s return, the France Under-21s have remained unbeaten picking up a 4-1 win over Denmark in a friendly and a 4-0 victory against Slovenia in a European Championship qualifier.
The Blues right-back impressed for Henry’s side, recording an assist for Bradley Barcola just before the hour mark. Gusto’s former Olympique Lyonnais teammate was heavily linked with a move to Chelsea this summer with Mauricio Pochettino in the market for a new right-winger, but Cole Palmer was signed instead.
With the France Under-21s dismissed until the next international break in October, Gusto is looking forward to returning to Cobham training ground. He tweeted: “Had a blast with the squad. Excited to head back home now.”
The Frenchman is expected to keep his place in the Chelsea starting lineup against Bournemouth this weekend, but he’s under pressure to impress at the Vitality Stadium with James closing in on a return from injury. The Cobham graduate suffered a hamstring injury in training last month, with Pochettino confirming that he’s set to be on the sidelines for a ‘few weeks’.
“It’s a hamstring – it’s not a few days, a few weeks maybe,” said the Blues manager. “I think it’s a sad moment because he’s our captain, he was so excited to be the captain, full of energy. We are going to assess him day by day. He is going to come back stronger than he was.”
James looks set to make his return in the coming weeks, with an Instagram story last week suggesting that he might be available for selection sooner rather than later. Gesturing a peace sign with his hand, he wrote: “Back to it soon.”
Nevertheless, Pochettino will be in no rush to welcome the 23-year-old back into the side with Gusto doing an excellent job at right-back.
You can find this story in My Bookmarks. Or by navigating to the user icon in the top right.