Kurt Zouma made his welcome return to semi-competitive action earlier this week, successfully completing 45 minutes in Chelsea U23's match against Derby County in what is essentially the Reserves/U21 league. After almost nine months on the sidelines, Zouma unsurprisingly looked a bit rusty, but he also seemed no worse for the wear in terms of physical attributes after the torn ACL.
And there was much rejoicing.
Despite those promising signs, Chelsea are in no hurry to rush Zouma back into action, which is understandable given the recent defensive solidity of the 3-4-3 formation and the good health of the squad in general. Speaking to the media on Friday, Chelsaea head coach Antonio Conte revealed that they expect Zouma to stay with the U23 side for at least one more game.
"If it's all OK [after the U23 match vs. Everton on Monday], then he'll come back with us. I'm very happy because I can have another central defender, a young central defender with good potential."
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
Zouma's power and pace could be welcome upgrades over either Cahill or Azpilicueta, though the young man's passing can often be a fair bit more awkward than even Cahill's. In any case, having another capable option in the squad is never a bad thing, especially if the current starting trio starts to struggle.