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Zouma injury gives Hiddink a defensive headache

Kurt Zouma is expected to be out of action for up to six months following the injury he picked up against Manchester United recently at Stamford Bridge. The Frenchman landed awkwardly when challenging for the ball in the air and it has since been confirmed that the defender will need surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament.

Zouma had firmly established himself as one of the regular starters in the Chelsea line-up this season in which he has made 32 appearances for the club. With the January transfer window now closed, manager Guus Hiddink will have to rely on what he has available in the squad as he is unable to sign cover until the summer.

Gary Cahill was Zouma’s replacement just before the hour mark when Chelsea drew 1-1 with United. The Englishman is now expected to return to the starting XI to play alongside John Terry in a partnership Chelsea fans are so used to seeing.

Cahill, who could start for England in Roy Hodgson’s back four at Euro 2016 in France later this year, was a key part of the Blues’ success under Jose Mourinho in the Premier League last season when they lifted the title. However, the former Bolton man has struggled for form in the 2015/16 campaign. Hiddink has preferred the older and more experienced Terry to partner Zouma but he’ll be hoping the spell out of the team will have done Cahill good as he will have something to prove to his manager and the Chelsea fans.

The Blues are starting to turn their season around so they’ll be hoping this injury does not affect their form for the final third of the campaign. They can at the time this article was produced be backed at 4-1 in the Premier League betting to finish in the top seven at the end of the season. Despite being points off defending their league championship, they are through to the last 16 of the Champions League and remain in the FA Cup.

The problem Hiddink now has with Zouma being out on action is he can’t afford to pick up any more injuries in his back four. There is very little cover in the central area of his defence.

One player Chelsea fans have yet to see is Matt Miazga, who was signed in the January transfer window from the New York Red Bulls for a fee thought to be in the region of £3.5 million. The American is just 20 years old but has already represented his national team and played 34 times for the Red Bulls in the MLS.

Miazga was regarded as one of the best young defenders in America and picked up praise for his performance against New York City in a derby last year where he came up against former Barcelona and Spain international David Villa. Although Miazga has a big reputation, it would be a big ask to throw the player into the Premier League midway through a season and expect him to deliver in his debut campaign.

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