Chelsea boss Potter ‘trusts Chukwuemeka more’ than Zakaria

Graham Potter previews Man Utd test

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Chelsea head coach Graham Potter trusts teenage midfielder Carney Chukwuemeka more than loanee outcast Denis Zakaria, according to reports. It is understood that Zakaria’s underwhelming loan spell could be ended prematurely in January, with the Juventus star having failed to make an appearance since joining the Blues on transfer deadline day. 

Zakaria was signed by former boss Thomas Tuchel to add strength to Chelsea’s midfield ranks. However, Tuchel’s September sacking has seen Zakaria struggle to prove his worth to new manager Potter. 

It has now emerged that Potter ‘prefers’ fellow summer purchase Chukwuemeka, who impressed in cameos against Wolves and Brentford. The 19-year-old, who captained England to the U19 Euros in the summer, was controversially prised away from Aston Villa before the start of the season. 

He is now ahead of Zakaria in the pecking order. The Switzerland international is the ‘last’ Chelsea midfielder when Potter considers his team selections, according to Blues journalist Simon Phillips speaking to Give Me Sport. The Chelsea boss is also said to lack ‘trust’ in Zakaria to give him minutes on the pitch.

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Wide-ranging reports claim that Zakaria – who is priced at £25m by transfermarkt – could return to Juventus early in January. However, Potter has quashed those suggestions and hopes that the 25-year-old can make an impact. 

“There has been no decision made at all on that. Denis has been in the group and he’s been training well,” Potter said last week.

“He’s ready to help the team but obviously there’s competition for places in that area. There’s no talks [about leaving].

“He’s an important member of the team. He’s being patient and trying to help the team from the side at the moment. He’s waiting for a chance.”

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Zakaria himself insisted in September that he aims to stay at Chelsea beyond his loan, although that now seems unlikely. He told journalists: “Of course. If you don’t do good, you don’t have the chance to stay.

“Chelsea is a big club and if you’re not good enough, you can’t stay at this club. I am here to prove I deserve to be here, that I am a good player and I can help the team. We will see what happens at the end.”

Meanwhile, Potter has raved about starlet Chukwuemeka, who is one of the country’s most highly-rated midfielders. The box-to-box ace impressed in Wednesday’s goalless draw with Brentford. 

Potter said of Chukwuemeka: “Well, if you look at these attributes, he’s a big powerful boy that can run and run away from people, and in a game like Brentford, you’re often in duels and need physicality, and I thought he and Christian [Pulisic] did well when they came on. They affected the game. That was just the thinking.

“He’s a young player, but he’s got exciting attributes. We just need to help him reach his potential because his potential is exciting.”

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