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Chelsea defender Graeme Le Saux is targeting the Charity Shield as his first competitive game in almost 10 months as his comeback from long-term injury gathers pace.

The full-back's scheduled return to the fray for the big kick-off next month against Manchester United will come not only as a major relief for him, but also as a boon for Chelsea boss Gianluca Vialli and England coach Kevin Keegan.

Le Saux last played a competitive match on October 23 last year, when he injured his ankle against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge, and he has since had two operations in a bid to cure the niggling problem.

He had initially pencilled in a return in time for the FA Cup final as well as the European Championship finals but was forced out of both.

Keegan will be delighted and the weaknesses of playing right-footed Phil Neville were exposed at Euro 2000, especially when he gave away the late penalty against Romania which confirmed England's early exit.

Le Saux will therefore hope to be fully match fit by the time of England's first 2002 World Cup qualifying game against Germany in October.

Chelsea physio, Mike Banks, is optimistic about the former Blackburn player’s chances, saying: "Graeme has been working all summer. Physically he's very fit now. He's doing just about everything that he can do with me from a rehab point of view.

"Next week he'll be back training with the group and there may be one or two things that he won't be doing with the team, simply because he hasn't played since last October.

"We're going to use the next month to bed him in but he should be available for the Charity Shield,” he added.
 
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