Ghanaian international midfielder Michael Essien should be in line for a first team start in mid-January after recovering from a serious knee injury said Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas on Friday.
Essien, 29, has not played this season after suffering the injury before the first match of the campaign but Villas-Boas said he was nearing the stage where he could compete for a starting place.
"He (Essien) will return to the squad in mid-January and will be available for matches," said Villas-Boas.
"I think that in three weeks, he will be in a posiiton to compete for a starting place."
Essien ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament at the start of pre-season training, just the latest in a series of injuries that have disrupted his career.
He has been plagued by knee injuries during his time at Stamford Bridge; he sustained another cruciate problem in September 2008 that ruled him out until the following March and also missed last year's World Cup after tearing medial knee ligaments during training for the Africa Cup of Nations in January 2010.
He was not included in the Ghana squad for next month's renewal of the Africa Cup of Nations which is being co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.