We weren't expecting Michael Essien back before 2012, but it sounds like the midfielder is on track for a slightly earlier return, and we could well see him back on the pitch next month. Essien's been out since the preseason with a ruptured ACL and previous estimates for his return had him back in action in mid-January. Fortunately, Chelsea will actually be able to use him should he return early thanks to only fielding seventeen of their allowed eighteen international players so far this season.
Anyway, here's Andre Villas-Boas confirming it all:
Essien is making good progress. We're looking at the end of December, I think.
What would an early Essien return mean? Well, first and foremost, I think having Essien back would make a Josh McEachran loan all but inevitable at the end of January
when John Obi Mikel returns from Africa Cup of Nations duty (ed note: oh right Nigeria didn't qualify) - we'd have six midfielders ahead of the teenager in the pecking order and he needs to play. Might we see Essien playing for Ghana as well? It's possible, but I'd doubt he'd be released to play international football so soon after coming back from a bad injury, especially considering his history with the competition. Ghanians might not like that very much, but he's going to have to be handled very carefully.
Personally, I hope that Essien isn't being rushed here. He's still young enough to make a full recovery from his injuries, but he obviously hasn't been completely healthy for years now and if he's launched back into the fray at 80% his old self... well, there's not really much point, is there? Let him have as much time as he needs, and if that means December, alright.