Essien's World Cup hopes in jeopardy

Michael Essien's season for Chelsea is over and there are fears that his knee injury will also mean that the Ghana midfielder will not be able to play in the World Cup finals this summer.

Chelsea confirmed yesterday that Essien would not be back in time for Sunday's game against Stoke City in the Premier League or those against Liverpool or Wigan Athletic or the FA Cup final against Portsmouth. The midfielder injured his knee on duty for Ghana in the African Cup of Nations in January having already suffered a hamstring tear.

The 27-year-old was rumoured to be fit enough to make a return this Sunday but a Chelsea spokesman yesterday said that was out of the question. "Michael Essien will not be in the squad for the weekend's game against Stoke City at Stamford Bridge," he said. "We were hoping that Michael recovered before the final game but it now looks unlikely that he will feature for us again this season."

Essien is still in the rehabilitation process and has suffered a number of setbacks since January. He has been to France for treatment on the injury that was expected to have healed by now and has undergone surgery on the problem. However, Essien now must be a major doubt for Ghana who play Serbia in their first Group D game in South Africa on 13 June.