Petr Cech insisted yesterday that it was possible he could be back in action in two weeks – despite having 50 stitches inserted into a face wound and undergoing plastic surgery after accidentally being kicked in the head by his team-mate Tal Ben Haim.
The goalkeeper is expected to wear a special face guard alongside the protective rugby cap he has to don for training and in matches following the depressed skull fracture he suffered in October 2006 after a collision with Reading's Stephen Hunt.
Cech played down fears that his season was over and, also, that he would miss Euro 2008. The Czech international said: "I hope I will be back in the goal soon. I will have to wait for what the doctor says. I cannot do anything right now, two days after the anaesthetic. The club said I should be back in two weeks, so we shall see. I believe it will be so."
It has been claimed that Cech would have to undergo treatment for six months and he said: "If I were a normal patient, it could be like that. But as I have to play football, we are trying to find a way to protect the wound – to be back as soon as possible.
"My face is sewn, so we must find a way to protect it from tearing again. Once this problem is solved I will restart training. But how long it will take, I do not know."
Cech, who had been back in training after an ankle problem, confirmed the incident had been nothing more than an unfortunate accident and insisted he did not blame Ben Haim.
"We were both trying to stop the goal," he said. "He wanted to kick the ball away and I dived for it at the same time. We hit each other and he tore my face – it was a coincidence.
"When we dived for the ball it was important the goal was not conceded. There are 50 such situations during every training session – it was simply bad luck. It is worse for me that after a long problem with my ankle I had restarted training and could finally play. This season has been awful as regards the injuries. I get rid of one, another comes.
"I spend all the day in the training centre, I try to regain fitness to be ready to return when something happens again. It is frustrating. I thought that I was over the worst, I had problems with my back, calf muscle, side, ligaments in the ankle and now this.
"But maybe I will have a break from injuries for some time now."
Cech's operation lasted two hours, but he admitted he was not sure of the exact number of stitches he received. He said: "I do not know exactly [how many stitches], I have not asked. For me the result is important and it is superb. The plastic surgeon did a great job. It looks like a small external injury. It cannot be compared to the state I looked before the operation."
Cech said he has a scar "from my lip to the chin on the right side of my face" but is happy with the surgery. "When I came home, my wife and daughter Adelka recognised I was OK," he said. "I eat normally and I can eat everything, [though] I'm only speaking with half of my mouth. The scar will remain, but should be minimal."
Although the incident was reminisent of the Hunt episode, the similarity did not occur to Cech. "No, I was just thinking about how I would look," he said.
One man especially concerned for Cech's health was Czech Republic coach Karel Bruckner, who is desperate to have his No 1 fit for Euro 2008. "He called me 10 times," said Cech. "I spoke to him and also Honza Stejskal, the goalkeepers' coach, called me – also some of my team-mates. I believe that a way will be found for me to return as soon as possible. It should not be a problem."