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In Focus: Gusto has perked up Blues after James loss
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Dan Fitch
Malo Gusto has played in every game for Chelsea this season
Malo Gusto has played in every game for Chelsea this season

Malo Gusto is making the most of an early opportunity at Chelsea. 

The France Under-21 international was expected to be back-up to Reece James in his first season with the Londoners. 

Yet with the Blues captain struck down by injury, the youngster has grasped an unexpected chance to impress. 

Ahead of Chelsea's Premier League match with Bournemouth on Sunday, we take a look at whether Gusto can make the right-back shirt his own.

Chelsea chance

On first impressions, Chelsea are a strange choice of team for any right-back with aspirations of playing regularly. 

James is the club captain, came through the Cobham academy and is considered to be one of the best players in the world in his position. 

But he also has a history of injuries and a hamstring problem has presented Gusto with the opportunity to show what he can do. 

Since replacing James as a substitute in the season opener against Liverpool, he has started all three Premier League matches for Chelsea. 

In the 3-0 victory against Luton at Stamford Bridge, Gusto assisted both of Raheem Sterling's two goals. 

And the full-back picked up another assist on international duty for the French U-21 team against Slovenia, providing for Bradley Carcola's strike in a 4-0 win. 

Malo Gusto has made an impressive start to life at Chelsea
Malo Gusto has made an impressive start to life at Chelsea

Opportunities await

James is expected to return before the end of the month, though he is unlikely to be available for the weekend clash with the Cherries.

Despite Gusto's bright start, it is hard to imagine that the skipper will not come straight back into the first-team when he is ready. 

But after James missed 25 games with injury last season, history suggests that the new arrival may not have to wait long for his next chance.

Gusto has been respectful regarding his battle for the right-back spot but remains confident in his ability. 

He said: "We are all sad for Reece. We must not forget he is our captain, he is important for the squad and the club. 

"Now I must use this opportunity to replace him in a good way and show that I can play. 

"When you sign for a top club you expect to be next to big names. I know I have the skills and quality and I'm here for it. 

"It was a similar situation at Lyon. Dubois was also the captain so it's nothing new for me. I have always learned from these situations and it's important to have this type of competition." 

Battle ahead

Malo Gusto was signed to deputise for Reece James
Malo Gusto was signed to deputise for Reece James

It is worth noting that the 20-year-old won that fight against Dubois at Lyon, with the ex-skipper moving to Galatasaray at the start of last season. 

Gusto was then signed by Chelsea for £30.7million in January, before seeing out the rest of the campaign on loan at the Ligue 1 club. 

Since moving to England, he has shown that he provides more than adequate cover for James. 

Crucially for Mauricio Pochettino, the two players share a lot of attributes — a fine passing range, pace, energy and defensive reliability. 

At his age, Gusto can be happy to play the role of understudy, knowing that he is still likely to see a lot of time on the pitch. 

Longer term, there is a battle ahead — and for all that James has in his favour, the newcomer has the potential to be the ultimate victor.


Malo GustoReece JamesChelseaPremier League
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