Yuri Zhirkov, who hasn't played since mid-November after incurring yet another injury while on international duty with Russia, has returned to training with the squad at Cobham today. Chelsea TV showed footage of the left-sided utility player engaging in a half-pitch game with the substitutes from the 0-0 draw at Fulham as well as the reserves. This is encouraging news for Chelsea's depth across the board, as Zhirkov can slot into any of the three bands Chelsea field, providing some much-needed width and creativity to the side.
In fact, Zhirkov may have provided the best moment of the season to date in setting up Branislav Ivanovic's late winner against Blackburn at Ewood Park, dancing past the defence to swing in a sumptuous cross straight onto the Serbian's head. Zhirkov found himself in an unfamiliar central midfield position after that match, and his shortcomings as a central player were exposed during Chelsea's slide out of the top four spots, but his return gives the side a much needed creative outlet on the left, especially now that Florent Malouda's form has deserted him. It'll obviously be a while until Zhirkov is fit to play in a match, bit this is encouraging news.