Chelsea duo near return

Injured Blues men on course for West Brom date

Mikel and Essien: Nearing returns

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Chelsea midfield duo Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel are set to be fit for the start of their team's Premier League title defence.

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The pair saw their summer plans for competing in the World Cup finals in South Africa dashed by knee injuries but they are now nearing a return to full fitness.

Chelsea's quest for a second successive title commences on 14th August against newly-promoted West Brom and both could feature in manager Carlo Ancelotti's plans.

Essien and Mikel have been involved in pre-season training at the Blues' Cobham training ground and assistant first-team coach Ray Wilkins says he is pleased with their progress.

Working well

He told the club's official website: "There should be no problem whatsoever. John Obi is slightly in advance of Michael Essien but they are both working very well indeed.

"They have been working double sessions for the last week and we will get them really firing before the season starts."

Chelsea boasted a strong contingent of star names in the summer's World Cup and the champions are at pains to look after their tired players.

Wilkins said burn-out could affect those who are not looked after properly following a gruelling schedule and he revealed some of his men would be eased back into action.

"Normally after a World Cup you find those players who come back from it, it is about December when they seem to hit a wall," Wilkins explained.

"It is very important we manage them in the correct manner and we get them to a level where they won't be as fit as we want them to be, but as they creep into the new year their fitness will come back.

Primed and ready

"The players we have got here now, we have to get them into the right fitness condition so that they are prepared to play, because we might not be able to use the guys coming back from the World Cup for the first couple of games.

"These young men have to be primed and ready to perform."

Ancelotti has brought in Liverpool schemer Yossi Benayoun to bolster his options and the Israeli has revealed some of his former club's training methods.

"Yossi is doing well," added Wilkins. "He has said the pre-season training here is so different to what they did at Liverpool where they didn't use a ball.

"They ran and they ran and they ran. But here we use the ball all the time and we feel we get the best out of the guys by using the ball day in day out. I think Yossi is quite enjoying himself."