Reece James limped out of his comeback game for Chelsea against Bournemouth on 53 minutes; the Chelsea defender had only just recovered from a knee injury that ruled him out of the World Cup; James described 2022 as his "toughest year to date" in a statement on Twitter
Wednesday 28 December 2022 15:53, UK
Reece James has hinted he is set for another spell on the injury table after limping off against Bournemouth - with Chelsea interested in Celtic's Josip Juranovic as a potential replacement.
The England international picked up a knee injury and missed the World Cup in Qatar but returned to start in his club's 2-0 Premier League victory.
James lasted almost hour at Stamford Bridge before he felt discomfort in the same knee and was forced off. He left the stadium wearing a knee brace.
On Wednesday, James posted a statement on social media describing how "tough" his year has been for him.
"2022 has been the toughest year to date," he wrote. "Just wanna thank you all for the support, none of you go unnoticed.
"It's naturally effected [sic] me mentally, I'm currently just tryna deal with the cards I've been dealt. I hope your end of year is filled with peace, joy & happiness.
"Love you all, catch you next year."
Chelsea head coach Graham Potter admitted he was concerned by James' setback, adding any team would miss the quality provided by the England right-back.
Potter, who revealed he was planning to substitute James an hour into the match, said it was "too soon" to assess the extent of the 23-year-old's injury, but added: "Obviously it's the same area so we're concerned.
"We'll have to see how the next 24 to 48 hours go. It was a sort of chopping action and then he felt something. We'll keep our fingers crossed. He's disappointed. We're just hoping it isn't as bad.
"Reece is a world-class player. You see it from the outside but it's not until you work with him that you understand how good he is. He's an incredible player. He would fit into any team in the world so any team would miss him."
With James set for a period on the treatment table, Chelsea are one of a number of clubs looking at Celtic right-back Juranovic.
Sky Sports News has been told internal talks have taken place at Chelsea to assess right-back options as they wait for the full extent of James' injury, with Juranovic a player who Chelsea have scouted for a while.
Sky Sports News revealed last week that Barcelona are interested in signing the Celtic right-back.
One source has told Sky Sports News he is the Catalans' number one target to fill that position, if they can find a solution to their Financial Fair Play restrictions.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta said last month that the club will still find it difficult to make January signings despite improving the health of their finances.
"We had to make some levers, which were economic operations that saved the club from ruin, and now the club is in economic recovery," he said. "But despite that, according to the rules of financial fair play of the Spanish league, we can not sign.
"Us and some other LaLiga clubs are also trying to convince LaLiga to be more flexible, and allow us other types of interpretations that can make Barcelona even stronger."
Celtic have wanted to keep Juranovic and there have been talks over improved terms on a new contract, but neither party could reach an agreement before he joined the Croatia squad for the World Cup. The 27-year-old still has more than three-and-a-half years left on his current deal.
It is understood Celtic will look to sit down with Juranovic again when he returns from his post-World Cup break this week, but the Scottish champions are braced for bids, amid interest from the Premier League and clubs in Europe.
Earlier this month, Celtic announced the signing of Canada right-back Alistair Johnston on a five-year deal.
Sky Sports football journalist David Richardson at Stamford Bridge:
James looked like he had never been away.
Injured since October 11 with a knee issue that required surgery, James made an impressive return to competitive action only for it to end after 53 minutes.
James had been key to Chelsea's 2-0 lead, tormenting Bournemouth down their left side and linking up flawlessly with Raheem Sterling. The right-back was even denied a goal by Mark Travers late in the first half.
But soon he was trudging down the tunnel after suffering an issue in "the same area" as the problem he'd only just overcome.
Chelsea stuttered after James went off. Cesar Azpilicueta - James' replacement - was unable to provide the same attacking threat on the right.
Fortunately for Potter's side they already held a commanding lead, but they will have a bigger problem should James be set for another long spell on the sidelines.
January 1 - Nottingham Forest vs Chelsea, Premier League, live on Sky Sports - kick-off 4.30pm
January 5 - Chelsea vs Manchester City, Premier League, live on Sky Sports - kick-off 8pm
January 8 - Manchester City vs Chelsea, FA Cup third round, kick-off 4.30pm
January 12 - Fulham vs Chelsea, Premier League, kick-off 8pm
January 15 - Chelsea vs Crystal Palace, Premier League, kick-off 2pm
January 21 - Liverpool vs Chelsea, Premier League, kick-off 12.30pm