Chelsea fear Reece James will be out for months with hamstring injury | Chelsea

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Chelsea fear Reece James will be out for months with a hamstring injury sustained in training. The new captain is waiting for confirmation regarding the extent of the problem but is said to be feeling very low and a lengthy absence would be a major setback for the club.

The injury has disrupted Chelsea’s preparations for Sunday’s Premier League game at West Ham and will have ramifications far beyond that unless scan results are more positive than anticipated.

Chelsea have Malo Gusto to deputise for James at right-back. The 20-year-old arrived from Lyon this summer and made his debut as a substitute for James in the opening game against Liverpool.

James could become the third Chelsea player, after Wesley Fofana and Christopher Nkunku, to be out with a long-term injury. Hamstring injuries can range in severity from a few weeks to several months, with Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne potentially out until the new year with the hamstring injury he sustained at Burnley last Friday.

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Chelsea’s transfer focus has been on adding attacking players and they have added Brennan Johnson to their list of targets and held initial talks with Nottingham Forest over a move for the winger.

It has been a busy summer for Chelsea, whose quest to balance the books is likely to lead them to agree to sell the 18-year-old left-back Lewis Hall to Newcastle for an initial £28m, and Johnson is one of several offensive players on their shortlist.

Chelsea are understood to have activated Michael Olise’s £35m release clause but on Thursday the winger committed his future to Crystal Palace, signing a new deal to 2027. Palace are unhappy with how Olise has been approached by Chelsea, who insist their behaviour has been above board.

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Discussions over Johnson are at an early stage. The possibility of including players as part of a deal for the versatile Wales international have been discussed with Forest, who value the 22-year-old at about £45m. Johnson, who also has interest from Tottenham and West Ham, played a key role in Forest winning promotion from the Championship in 2022 and he helped them stay in the Premier League by scoring eight goals last season.

Brennan Johnson in action for Nottingham Forest at Arsenal.
Brennan Johnson (left) is valued by Nottingham Forest at about £45m. Photograph: John Sibley/Action Images/Reuters

If Johnson joins Chelsea he would compete with Raheem Sterling, Mykhailo Mudryk and Noni Madueke for a starting place. Mauricio Pochettino wants more depth after losing the France forward Christopher Nkunku to a long-term knee injury and Johnson fits the strategy of targeting young players.

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Chelsea have spent heavily again this summer and broke the British transfer record for the second time this year when they signed the Ecuador midfielder Moisés Caicedo from Brighton for £115m this week. They are preparing to announce the £58m signing of the Southampton midfielder Roméo Lavia.

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The spending under the ownership of Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital is close to the £1bn mark, increasing the pressure to sell players. Hall is set to leave weeks after being offered a new six-year deal, with the option of an extra year. The teenager was initially expected to join Palace on a season’s loan but is instead being allowed to move to Newcastle on a permanent basis.

The decision to sell another academy product will come as a disappointment to supporters who have seen Mason Mount leave this summer. Hall, an England Under-21 international, is a fine prospect and impressed during his appearances last season. Capable of playing at left-back or in central midfield, he is an exciting dribbler and will give Eddie Howe more options as he plots Newcastle’s Champions League campaign.

Hall is likely to have more opportunities at Newcastle. The left-back is behind Ben Chilwell and Marc Cucurella at Chelsea, who are also in talks with Ian Maatsen over a new deal. Maatsen, a 21-year-old left-back, is wanted by West Ham.

Questions have been raised over how Chelsea can comply with Financial Fair Play regulations but selling academy products helps their position because money received goes down in the accounts as pure profit. Chelsea could also sell Conor Gallagher, Trevoh Chalobah and Callum Hudson-Odoi, who is closing on a move to Fulham.

Thirteen players have left this summer and the Morocco winger Hakim Ziyech is on the brink of joining Galatasaray. Chelsea are looking for a buyer for Romelu Lukaku.

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