Michael Essien Close to Return

  • Last Updated: December 31 2011, 0:02 GMT

Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas expects midfielder Michael Essien to return by mid-January after a long lay-off with a knee injury.

Michael Essien: Close to return

The Ghana international has not featured for the Blues this season after damaging his knee during pre-season training.

Essien is closing on full fitness and Villas-Boas says the midfielder could be back in first-team contention in as little as two weeks' time.

He said: "I think mid-January.

"He will be introduced to first-team activity in mid-January and contention properly I think we are looking at three weeks for him to gain form and start competing to the level that the others are.

"It could take less time if we are positive about it and maybe in two weeks he can reach that level of form to come back for the team."

Despite the midfielder's progress, Villas-Boas says Chelsea's next two fixtures against Aston Villa on New Year's Eve and at Wolves on Tuesday will come too soon for Essien, as well as fellow absentees Branislav Ivanovic and John Mikel Obi.

He added: "I think Ivanovic and Obi are making good progress but will continue to be out of the game, these two fixtures that are coming, and also Essien the same."