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Cole Palmer returns to training, Chelsea sweat on his fitness ahead of Villa showdown

Chelsea attacker Cole Palmer returned to training on Thursday and could feature at Aston Villa on Saturday, according to the Daily Mail.

Reece James and Levi Colwill also joined him in partial training although they have been out for longer and will miss the Villa game.

The 21-year-old’s absence due to illness was keenly felt in the humiliating 5-0 defeat to Arsenal in midweek.

Palmer is Chelsea’s top scorer this season with 20 Premier League goals. His ability to progress the ball and create chances has been vital for the Blues.

Ahead of the game, Mauricio Pochettino challenged his players to prove they weren’t overly reliant on Palmer, stating they weren’t ‘Cole Palmer Football Club’. 

However, the Blues were toothless in attack without him. Chelsea struggled to create clear-cut chances and Arsenal picked them apart.

With a crucial encounter against Villa looming, all eyes will be on Pochettino’s pre-match press conference on Friday, where he is expected to provide an update on Palmer’s fitness. 

The Argentine manager will hope the young attacker has recovered in time to spearhead Chelsea’s frontline as they aim to keep their European hopes alive.

Pochettino will be desperate for a win on Saturday when they travel to Villa Park. The former Paris Saint-Germain boss is walking a tightrope after a disappointing season.

He was handed a young and inexperienced squad but has struggled to galvanise them into a team. 

Chelsea have been poor defensively, conceding 57 league goals already – their worst record in a 38-game Premier League season – and there are still six games to go.

Pochettino’s set-up has been criticised for exposing the team to counter-attacks, leaving too much space for the players to cover.

A sixth-place finish is still possible, but it is debatable whether it would be enough for him to remain in the Chelsea dugout next season.

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