Chelsea’s Zouma to take another step towards first-team comeback

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Kurt Zouma will make another appearance for Chelsea’s Under-23 side next week as part of his journey towards a first-team comeback.

Monday’s game against Southampton’s second string will be Zouma’s fourth outing since his return to action following a long-term knee injury.

Zouma, 22, suffered cruciate ligament damage against Manchester United in February and returned to training last month.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday afternoon, Blues boss Antonio Conte said: “It’s important now that Kurt is with us, in the training sessions.

“It’s normal when you arrive after a bad injury, you need a bit of time to recover your best form and for this reason we prefer Kurt, in this period, to play games with the Under-23s.”

Zouma’s long-awaited return will give Conte yet another option in the centre-back area.

Cesar Azpilcueta has impressed in a back three along with Gary Cahill and David Luiz, while John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic are also waiting in the wings.

“I’m happy to have this availability of the central defenders,” said Conte, whose side face Middlesbrough on Sunday.

“It’s fantastic to have available another good player, like Kurt Zouma.”

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