Michael Essien May Not Feature Until April

Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien has privately conceded that he won�t play for the first team again until the spring. Essien, 28, is recovering from his third serious knee injury in as many years, having ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus during pre-season training in July. The club had hoped the Ghana international would only be out for up to six months but the Standard newspaper understands he will be missing for a lot longer than that. Essien is now undergoing intense rehabilitation work to strengthen the injured right knee and admitted earlier this month that he was unsure when he would be able to return. He said: �My days are filled with physio sessions from 10am to 5pm and it is a gradual process which I am confident will lead to the results I want. �I much prefer to be with my team-mates in training and on the field of play, however I know I have to be patient so I can heal properly. �I have been asked when I am coming back and at this point in time it�s down to how the recovery goes and when I am given the all-clear by the medical team. It�s too early to give specific dates.� A source close to Essien has revealed that March or April has been pencilled in, which means he will miss the majority of the Premier League and Champions League this term. Chelsea are certainly not looking to rush him back as he was ruled out for more than six months in 2008 with cruciate ligament damage to his left knee and then suffered a similar problem in the same leg in January last year, which forced him to miss the World Cup. Aware of the problem, manager Andre Villas-Boas signed Raul Meireles and Oriol Romeu in the transfer window to cover for Essien�s absence.