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Broken ankle rules Ashley Cole out for three months

Chelsea have confirmed that Ashley Cole will be sidelined for three months after fracturing his ankle, meaning the England international may miss the rest of the season in the build-up to the World Cup finals in South Africa.

Cole sustained the injury after 57 minutes of Chelsea's 2-1 defeat at the hands of Everton on Wednesday night when he was involved in a challenge with Landon Donovan - who represents United States, England's first opponents in South Africa.

Chelsea have now been dealt a substantial setback in their challenge for trophies on three fronts with the news that Cole will miss three months, making it doubtful whether he will return in time for the final weekend of the Premier League season on May 8 and 9.

"Ashley Cole suffered a fracture to his left ankle in last night's game against Everton and is expected to be out of action for approximately three months," read a club statement.

Chelsea will likely turn to Russia international Yuri Zhirkov to fill the gap left by Cole's absence and Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti told Sky Sports News: ''We are very disappointed because he's a very important player for us. Now we have to do our best to get him recovered quickly, although we have Yury, who is a fantastic full-back, so we can use him.''

But the news leaves England manager Fabio Capello with a real dilemma.

It remains unclear whether Wayne Bridge, a former understudy of Cole at Chelsea, will be available for international selection following allegations that his former partner had an affair with John Terry - a scandal that resulted in Terry losing the England captaincy.

Joleon Lescott has played at left-back for England in the past while Blackburn's Stephen Warnock and Everton's Leighton Baines are also possible replacements should Cole not make the trip to South Africa.

After winning his first cap for England under Sven-Goran Eriksson in 2001, Cole has gone on to represent his country 77 times and carve out a reputation as one of the world's finest defenders. He was first choice at both the 2002 and 2006 World Cup finals as well as Euro 2004.

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