Di Matteo searches for a solution to Terry's absence

For all the problems John Terry brings to Chelsea, his absence causes difficulties too. They seem to need him on the field as much as ever.

Since Terry has been out, first with a four-game ban for racial abuse and then with a knee injury, Chelsea have not won for four league games, and were well beaten at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. Manager Roberto Di Matteo admitted afterwards that they miss Terry and need to improve in his absence, which is certainly true given their week ahead. Tomorrow they play at Juventus, their future in the Champions League at risk. Lose, and elimination is likely.

Of course, on their famous Champions League campaign last season, there was no Terry for either of their finest moments: the second half in Barcelona, or the final in Munich. But he has been their dominant defender for more than a decade, and that is difficult to break.

Di Matteo's side are currently on their worst run of the season. They have won just two of their last seven games in all competitions; a 5-4 extra-time defeat of Manchester United reserves in the Capital One Cup and a 3-2 stoppage-time victory over Shakhtar Donetsk.

Terry's knee injury kept him out of Saturday's 2-1 defeat at The Hawthorns in which Gary Cahill and David Luiz were pulled apart by Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie. Luiz let Long peel away from him at the far post for the first goal. For the second, Luiz allowed a cross and Odemwingie beat Ryan Bertrand at the near post to head Albion back in front.

These goals, from barely contested headers from stoppable crosses, are the sort that Terry simply does not permit to happen. For all of the qualities of Cahill and Luiz, Chelsea are a lesser side without Terry.

Di Matteo knows what he must do. "It's a shame that John is injured – but we will have to do without him until he comes back – and improve."

They certainly must if they are to get the draw they need tomorrow. Then Manchester City come to Stamford Bridge on Sunday and Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez are no respecters of messy defences. Chelsea need to find a safe combination, not just for the future but for now.