Relief for Chelsea as Cole spared surgery

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Two months out of action is the good news for Ashley Cole, who found out last night that the wince-inducing tumble he took at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday should not rule him out for the rest of the season. The England left-back has damaged his posterior cruciate ligament but the club believe he will be back for the start of April.

That means Cole's comeback should be in time for the quarter-finals of the Champions League and the visit of Manchester United that month. A scan revealed surgery would not be needed as the damage is not that severe, and it is not to the anterior ligament, the part Michael Owen ruptured when he suffered a more severe injury at the World Cup finals last summer.

Cole's injury was caused when his left knee buckled after his boot caught in the turf in the game against Blackburn. And while the Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, had to reflect on that bad luck, his injury problems were eased by the announcement that John Terry will make his long-awaited return against Charlton Athletic on Saturday after 52 days out.

Until now, Mourinho has refused to put a date on Terry's comeback from a disc problem that required surgery. Mourinho even gave tacit approval for the 26-year-old to play for England in Wednesday's friendly against Spain.

"Terry will return this weekend, he's an important player and we miss him," Mourinho said. "He's been out for a long time and it's important he's back, especially when we're in a period when we keep losing players. "It's [the international break], something we cannot control. When we have every player in a national team there's always a danger of more problems, but... we're happy our players are good enough to be always in their national teams. The players are proud. We can't do anything, just hope for a bit of luck."

The peace that has settled upon the club in the last week, helped by three wins, was reflected in a rare response to reports of a change of manager in the summer. A Chelsea statement last night denied that Marcello Lippi, the World Cup-winning former Italy coach, was on the shortlist to replace Mourinho or that there was a shortlist.

Mourinho's mood appears to have lightened of late and he even sat patiently through a welcoming ceremony for China's Under-23 Olympic team, who have been invited to use Chelsea's training base in preparation for the 2008 Games in Beijing. He did not look like a manager racked with anxiety over the six-point lead Manchester United have at the top of the Premiership and even said he felt his side were ready to take on the leaders now instead of on 15 April.

"We're six points behind, in this moment it's very, very good," he said. "It's a big achievement by a group full of problems. The group is strong and will fight. And we are [still] there. It's a pity we don't play Manchester United soon, because if we did and could reduce the gap from six to three everything is open, but we have to wait until we play them, I think, in April."

The Chinese players will have an unprecedented view of Chelsea life with open access to the facilities, lectures on fitness and an invitation to first-team training. The club were given assurances that United's China international Dong Fangzhuo, 22, will not be among those players spending two weeks at Cobham.

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