After a string of impressive wins and sequence of clean sheets, Chelsea’s defence has started to creak in recent weeks.
And the dismissal of captain John Terry last weekend has given Blues boss Antonio Conte a selection dilemma ahead of Saturday’s trip to champions Leicester.
But, after being recalled from his loan spell at Bournemouth this week earlier than expected, Nathan Ake could be called upon straight away to fill the breach and at least be named on the substitutes bench.
Terry was unsuccessful in an appeal over his red card in last weekend’s FA Cup victory over Peterborough and his place could be taken by Ake, who scored three times for the Cherries during an impressive first half of the season.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Conte was full of praise for Ake but hinted he may have to wait for his opportunity to shine.
“I’m very pleased for him to stay with us,” the Italian said. “In this one-year-and-a-half he has improved a lot. This shows that it’s important for a young player born in the Academy to go and play on loan, and then, when they are ready, come back and play with us.
“Ake is a really good example. He is a good player, very young but with a good personality. He can play as a central defender, in the middle or on the left, he could play as a wing-back. It’s important now to work with us.
“He’s trained with us only a few days. It’s important for him to have a bit of time to go into our idea of football and adapt, and then be under consideration.”
If Ake is not considered, the Blues could call upon Branislav Ivanovic or stick to the tried and trusted formula which has been so fruitful in recent times.
Gary Cahill, Cesar Azplicieuta and David Luiz have formed a promising back three in the last two months, with Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso operating as wing-backs.
Captain Terry, 36, will serve a one-match ban at the King Power Stadium after being dismissed by referee Kevin Friend in the 4-1 win over League One Peterborough last Sunday at Stamford Bridge – on only his eighth appearance of the season – for a professional foul on Lee Angol.
Chelsea head into Saturday’s evening kick-off against the Foxes looking to return to form after their 13-match winning run was brought to an end by London rivals Tottenham last week.