Chelsea squad stretched to limit after Lampard is ruled out until next month

With Frank Lampard now not expected to return to the Chelsea side until the middle of next month, Carlo Ancelotti has been forced to defend the depth of his squad in the face of a lengthening injury list.

Lampard will miss tonight's Champions League encounter with Marseilles as well as Sunday's game against Arsenal as he takes longer than expected to recover from hernia surgery. The midfielder will also not be fit in time for England's Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro on 12 October, but he is earmarked to come back against Aston Villa four days later. The 32-year-old has not played since the victory over Stoke on 28 August.

He has trained since the operation but has been hampered by pain around the scar tissue. He is, said John Obi Mikel, "a massive loss". Ancelotti admitted: "It is a bigger problem than we first thought but he should be fit after the international break."

The absence of Lampard for a further two games is another setback for the Italian who will be without four other senior players and the suspended Didier Drogba for the French champions' visit to Stamford Bridge. It means that the home bench, like a village bus stop, will be largely populated with teenagers tonight. Ross Turnbull, the 25-year-old back-up goalkeeper, and the 31-year-old Paulo Ferreira will be the only over-21s at Ancelotti's disposal.

"It is not a problem," claimed Ancelotti, who added with a grin that he is either criticised for having a squad that is too old or one that is too young. "Experience is a good thing and it is important to have it as a squad, but experience will come. For me it is a good moment. We have young players improving and we have players with experience. Thirty is not old. We have a good mix."

The comparative limits of Ancelotti's squad were demonstrated on Saturday. As Roberto Mancini threw on Emmanuel Adebayor, Adam Johnson and Jerome Boateng, three high-profile internationals, Ancelotti turned to Yuri Zhirkov, Daniel Sturridge and Josh McEachran.

"Sturridge and [Gaël] Kakuta are ready," said Ancelotti when questioned about the callowness of parts of his squad, especially in comparison to Manchester City's. "Kakuta is a fantastic player, maybe he will be better than Adam Johnson. I have a lot of options. It is normal at some point of the season to have two, three players injured."

Chelsea only recruited two players in the close season, Yossi Benayoun and Ramires, while five experienced squad members moved on, including Joe Cole, Deco and Ricardo Carvalho as the club pursue a more balanced approach to the transfer market.

It is four years since Chelsea last lost three games in a row and with no Drogba, Lampard, Salomon Kalou and Benayoun, their attacking options are notably reduced. But as football crises go, this remains one that most clubs across the continent would be happy to take on. Tonight Ancelotti will look to his two elder Frenchman to provide the goals against their compatriots. Nicolas Anelka is likely to lead the line with the support of Florent Malouda.

"He is in fantastic form," said Ancelotti of Anelka. "He is a mature player and will play for the team as he always does. He can play all positions up front and has the perfect skills for it; speed, quality and able to support players coming from midfield."

Marseilles lost their opening game to Spartak Moscow at the Stade Vélodrome having already suffered their worst start to a league campaign for 25 years and are defensively suspect. Ancelotti believes they can be overpowered by the physical presence of Michael Essien and Mikel, but he does not see the need to deliver any sort of rallying call to his side,

He said: "Marseilles are not a physical team. We have a lot of power. We didn't use it in the last game [against City]. I don't ask them [the players] to have a reaction [to Saturday's defeat]. I ask them just to play our football and to pay attention. I said before Saturday that it would be very difficult to be unbeaten during the season because it is a competitive championship here, there are a lot of teams that can beat you. So we are not upset to lose the unbeaten record and now we have to look forward – it's not the first time we have lost and it will not be the last."

Three key confrontations

Nicolas Anelka v Souleymane Diawara

Anelka will lead the line in the absence of the suspended Didier Drogba against former Charlton defender Diawara. The Senegalese centre-back must avoid being dragged wide by Anelka, and creating space for the likes of Essien to exploit.

Michael Essien v Édouard Cisse

Essien has been pushing further forward this season and without Lampard takes on extra goalscoring responsibility. He comes up against experienced anchorman Édouard Cisse, who helped Monaco eliminate Chelsea en route to the 2004 final.

John Terry v Loïc Rémy

Terry only returned from injury at Manchester City on Saturday and faces a stern test against pacy forward Rémy. Linked with a host of Premier League sides over the summer, Rémy impressed off the bench at Sochaux last weekend and should start tonight.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most