Alex joins Cech in Chelsea treatment room

The Chelsea defender Alex will miss the start of the season after being ruled out for a month having torn a thigh muscle in training. The Brazilian defender went for a scan yesterday which confirmed the tear in his right leg and he joins goalkeeper Petr Cech, who tore a calf muscle earlier this week, on the sidelines.

Both players have been ruled out of the Community Shield with Manchester United on 8 August and Chelsea's Premier League opener against West Bromwich Albion on 14 August.

The loss of Alex, 28, is a major blow for the Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti as the Brazilian international had become a first-team regular last season, playing alongside John Terry in 25 games at the heart of the defence. Ricardo Carvalho is likely to replace him for Chelsea's opening games, although the injury could hasten moves to sign Benfica defender David Luiz.

Ancelotti is undecided about who should stand in for Cech once the season starts, so he has decided to play both his reserve goalkeepers in an X Factor style contest in today's friendly against Ajax.

Veteran Portuguese international Henrique Hilario is Cech's designated stand-in but Ancelotti wants to give former Middlesbrough No 3 Ross Turnbull a chance to stake his claim to become Cech's understudy and so will give them both a half in Amsterdam.

The Italian said: "I think that against Ajax we will play 45 minutes each for Turnbull and Hilario, and I think that Turnbull will start the game."

The midfielder Michael Essien will continue his return from a knee injury, having played and scored in last weekend's 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace, his first game for seven months. Essien said: "It feels good, it's been a long time but I am back in full training now, everything is good and there is no reaction from the training, so things are looking good for me. I didn't have any holidays because of my rehab, but it will be good to start up again and I am looking forward to the rest of the boys coming back as well.

"I'd love to have been there playing at the end of the season, it wasn't easy for me but I supported my team-mates to win their matches, that's all I could do. I became a supporter and to end the season with two trophies was amazing and I was enjoying it like everyone even though I didn't play the whole season."

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