Frank Lampard claimed that injured right-back Reece James will be a ‘big player’ for Chelsea after watching his team crumble to a 4-0 defeat against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
James, 19, returned to Stamford Bridge this summer following a hugely productive loan spell at Wigan Athletic in the Championship where he won two Player of the Year awards.
Such is the esteem with which James is held in by those at Chelsea, he has been tipped to challenge Cesar Azpilicueta for his place once he has recovered from an ankle injury sustained while playing for England U20s in June.
James is one of a number of players currently unavailable to Lampard and the new Chelsea manager suggested that the club’s injury list had been a factor in their defeat to United on the opening day of the Premier League season.
‘Yeah, it’s clear. I’ve tried to stay away from transfer bans and injuries but it’s clear, we all know that,’ Lampard told Sky Sports after the game. ‘I tried to bring N’Golo [Kante] on to get him minutes, that’s a bonus to see him out there and we have [Antonio] Rudiger and Willian not far away.
‘Callum [Hudson-Odoi] and Ruben [Loftus-Cheek] will be slightly further than that. Reece James coming back, who is going to be a big player for us, I think.’
Azpilicueta was appointed Chelsea’s permanent campaign this summer following the departure of Gary Cahill and he has been a stalwart of the team since signing from Marseille in 2012.
The Spain international endured a difficult afternoon at Old Trafford, though, and was partly at fault for Marcus Rashford’s second goal after being caught on the wrong side of him after Paul Pogba had played a searching ball over the top of Chelsea’s defence.
James has been with Chelsea since the age of six and while he is yet to make a senior appearance for the club, he is regarded as one of their best up-and-coming prospects.