Premier League - Terry close to Chelsea return

Chelsea captain John Terry is closing in on a first-team return and could be involved at Stoke this weekend, interim manager Rafael Benitez has revealed.

The 32-year-old has not featured for the Blues since the 1-1 draw with Liverpool on November 11 following a collision with Luis Suarez.

Terry had been expected to be out for three weeks but is only now closing in on a return two months on.

The centre-back is due to face Fulham with Chelsea's Under-21 team on Thursday evening, which Benitez admits could see him return to the first team at Stoke on Saturday.

"John Terry has been training and we are considering playing him on Thursday with the Under-21 team," the Spaniard said.

"The good thing is he is now training so now he can carry on. We will see how he feels on Thursday and hopefully he can play more minutes in the short-term so we will see.

"At least that is a positive thing because before he was just doing the warm-up. Now he is training and can play so I think we are obviously closer."

Asked if he could be involved against Stoke, he added: "It depends on his reaction. Obviously Thursday will be a different kind of game but we will see how he feels.

"If he can feel okay and train the day after, at least we can start considering him as an option."

Meanwhile Benitez would not be drawn on the future of Frank Lampard, only revealing the midfielder remains focused on the task at hand.

The 34-year-old has been the subject of rife speculation in recent days and weeks, with his contract at Stamford Bridge due to expire in the summer.

Lampard's agent Steve Kutner has claimed the midfielder will not be offered a new contract by the west Londoners under any circumstances, while reports on Tuesday suggest Manchester United are plotting a deal.

Such a move would devastate Chelsea's fan base and was not something Benitez was willing to even comprehend.

"I think it's too early to talk about teams and the future," the Spaniard said. "Frank is under contract and playing for us. That's it.

"You know my idea. He's doing well, working very hard and I will try to bring the best from him. My position is exactly the same and if he can carry on scoring goals, I will be really pleased.

"And if Frank can carry on scoring goals and we can win games, I'll be even happier."