Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe has confirmed that Chelsea are likely to exercise their option to call back Nathan Ake from his loan spell with the Cherries.

The Netherlands U21 international struggled to nail down a regular place in Howe's starting XI at the start of the season, but has played the full 90 minutes in eight out of nine games since his first start against Stoke City in November – he only missed one game because it was against parent club Chelsea. Ake has been deployed at centre-back and has impressed with his consistent performances and has also contributed with three goals.

"It looks like that will be the case that they will call him back, it's not 100% finalised yet," Howe said after his side's loss to Milwall in the third round of the FA Cup, as quoted by the Guardian.

Antonio Conte admitted earlier in the week that the 21-year-old defender could be an 'interesting opportunity' for Chelsea to bring in during the January transfer window. Ake's versatility which allows him to play at left-back or right-back will interest the Italian manager, who has changed his formation and now plays with a back three. The only drawback for the player, would be that he will not be guaranteed regular football, as David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Cezar Azpilicueta are currently first choice for the league leaders.

"Aké is a really good player and now in the last five games he's started to play with Bournemouth and is playing every game. Honestly, I'm evaluating his situation, because Aké could be an interesting opportunity in this window, yes, for us," Conte said.

Howe admits that his recall will leave a massive void in Bournemouth's defence and is unsure if the club can recruit a player of similar ilk. The Cherries will be vulnerable in defence if he departs right away as Simon Francis, their skipper, who was moved to right-back to accommodate Ake, is suspended for the next two games and Marc Wilson is an injury concern.

"That would be a huge blow for us and with Nathan going back our defensive resources would be stretched. It would be a huge blow to us as he's done so well."

Nathan Ake
Nathan Ake likely to be called back by Chelsea after impressing on loan at Bournemouth Getty

"It's easier said than done to say we are going to recruit a player in similar stature to Nathan and I'm not sure there's too many out there. So that's going to be a difficult one for us but we will assess our options and try and make the right decisions," the Cherries boss added.