Bridge set for return as Chelsea reshuffle

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The Independent Online

He has lost his place for both club and country but the long road back from injury should come to an end for Wayne Bridge tonight when the Chelsea left-back returns to action, after eight months out, with a possible start against Charlton Athletic in the Carling Cup third round.

Jose Mourinho looks set to rest William Gallas, and with Ricardo Carvalho out with concussion, Bridge, 25, has been judged ready to begin his first game for the side since he fractured his ankle in the FA Cup defeat by Newcastle on 20 February. His difficult recovery from injury has meant that Bridge missed last season's triumphs in the Carling Cup and Premiership and has seen Mourinho spend £8m on Asier del Horno this summer who has impressed at left-back.

Bridge's injury was sustained in the second of Chelsea's two defeats last season in domestic competition and his withdrawal that day at St James' Park, after an innocuous challenge with Alan Shearer, left Chelsea, who had used all their substitutes, with just ten men. Bridge has endured problems with ligament damage that has slowed his comeback but he will now hope to be given enough playing time by Mourinho to make Sven Goran Eriksson's England squad for the friendly against Argentina in Geneva on 12 November.

With Ashley Cole still three weeks from returning from a stress fracture, that match would be a good opportunity for Bridge to press his case to be the Arsenal full-back's understudy for next summer's World Cup finals. Mourinho is expected to make wholesale changes from the side that drew with Everton on Sunday, including rests for Frank Lampard, Claude Makelele, Petr Cech and Joe Cole.

That should mean a start for Carlo Cudicini in goal as well as starting roles for Robert Huth, Geremi, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Hernan Crespo. The Chelsea assistant, Steve Clarke, maintained yesterday that Mourinho does not consider his squad to be divided between a first- and second-choice XI although tonight will be a chance to use many of those who have struggled to make the starting side in the Premiership this season.

"It will be great for Wayne. He's worked so hard since his injury and it wasn't a simple injury - it was difficult, with complication - and he's worked great," Clarke said. "I think he's played three or four reserve games now, 90 minutes, he looks good in training and it's great to have him back in the squad.

"He feels within himself that he's fit. He got over the break and ligament damage and had another problem that kept occurring. It wasn't stopping him training but it was holding him back a little bit and that was really frustrating for him. Thankfully that's gone and he's ready and in contention to play. For Wayne the most important thing now is to get back into the Chelsea side, be involved on a regular basis in the team and squad and then the England situation will take care of itself."

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