Premier League • England

Chelsea star in line for last-minute World Cup appearance after compatriot picks up tournament-ending injury

Marc Cucurella, N'Golo Kante and Reece James

A Chelsea player could receive a late call-up to the Spain World Cup squad after one of his compatriots picked up an injury, according to reports.

Luis Enrique’s 26-man squad raised some eyebrows, to say the least. He left out big-name stars such as Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara and Paris Saint-Germain defender Sergio Ramos.

Enrique also caused controversy with his goalkeeper selection. He left David de Gea out of the squad, despite his top performances for Manchester United this season.

Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga was also omitted, even though he has impressed under Graham Potter recently.

Instead, Enrique has gone with Unai Simon of Athletic Bilbao as his first-choice keeper. David Raya and Robert Sanchez will provide backup for Simon.

Spain will have to make a late change to their squad, however. According to Sport Witness, who cite Spanish outlet El Pais, Valencia left-back Jose Gaya has picked up an ankle injury. And Enrique is now looking to replace him with another full-back.

FIFA states countries can change players in their squad who are ill or injured, right up until 24 hours before their first match.

And this rule will allow Spain to bring in a new defender as Gaya’s replacement.

Chelsea man eyed as Jose Gaya replacement

Enrique has drawn up a three-man list of potential additions to his squad. And Chelsea player Marc Cucurella is in the manager’s sights.

Like Arrizabalaga, Cucurella didn’t make the initial squad. He was in great form for Brighton last season but is yet to replicate that in a Chelsea shirt.

After the original setback, Cucurella could now receive the call-up to represent his nation on the biggest stage of all. His main role would be to provide backup for Barcelona stalwart Jordi Alba.

Unfortunately for Cucurella, he isn’t the only left-back under consideration among the Spain national team camp. They are also looking at former Blues star Marcos Alonso, who joined Barca in the summer.

And making up the three-man list is 19-year-old Barca academy graduate Alejandro Balde.

Cucurella is clearly the favourite to get the call from Enrique. He has been in a regular in the Chelsea side, featuring in all but one of their league matches so far.

Alonso, in contrast, has had to spend more time on the bench due to Alba being Xavi’s first-choice left-back.

Balde, meanwhile, has played almost as regularly as Cucurella this campaign. However, his lack of experience at senior level will probably hold him back.

In terms of international caps, Alonso has the advantage over his left-back rivals. He has made nine appearances for Spain, while Cucurella is on just one and Balde has only ever featured for the U21 side.

Alonso will be hoping his superior experience stands him in good stead, but Cucurella is surely in the driving seat for the call thanks to his playing time this season.

Meanwhile, Spurs and Chelsea will have to fend off Barca in the hunt for an RB Leipzig sensation.