CHELSEA were handed a huge boost with four injured stars named in the 25-man squad heading to Abu Dhabi – and Reece James trained with his team-mates as he steps up his rehab.
Graham Potter and his side flew to the UAE on Sunday night for a warm-weather training camp.
The Blues will also play a friendly against Aston Villa at the weekend.
And even though it seems unlikely they will be involved in the match, the return of the quartet will bring plenty of festive cheer to everyone connected with Chelsea.
N’Golo Kante, Wesley Fofana, Ben Chilwell and James would all surely have been in Qatar – and could have faced off in Saturday’s crunch quarter-final between France and England.
However, they all picked up cruel injuries in the build-up to the winter World Cup.
Kante, 31, is still recovering after undergoing an operation on his hamstring in October having sustained the injury back in August.
Chilwell, 25, also has a hamstring problem while the third ex-Leicester man Fofana, 21, was ruled out with a knee injury.
James, 22, missing out on England’s World Cup squad because of a knee injury, also suffered in the Champions League.
The right-back even took part in a light training session on Monday following the seven-hour overnight flight to the Middle East.
That included some light jogging, stretching and fun games to get the bodies moving and spirits high.
With many of the first-team squad involved in the World Cup, Potter filled out the travelling group with youngsters such as Lewis Hall, Omari Hutchinson, Cesare Casadei and Charlie Webster.
However, there were still a number of high-profile players in Abu Dhabi.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Marc Cucurella, Jorginho, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Armando Broja and Trevoh Chalobah all trained after sunset on Monday evening.
The likes of Kalidou Koulibably, Edouard Mendy, Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz – all knocked out of the World Cup – are currently on holiday before returning to training.
Chelsea’s first competitive game back after the break sees them take on Bournemouth at home in the Premier League on December 27.