Chelsea, still digesting their missed opportunity at the weekend to close the gap on Manchester United, saw their title challenge further undermined yesterday with the news that Nicolas Anelka will be out of action for around three weeks.
The France striker has been playing with a bruised toe in recent matches and was in the Chelsea side that lost 1-0 to Tottenham on Saturday. That result all but ended their interest in the Premier League title race, and now it has been announced that Anelka has pulled out of the France squad for their World Cup double-header against Lithuania.
Chelsea have yet to confirm how long Anelka will be out for, but the Paris St-Germain striker Guillaume Hoarau has been called up to replace him by the France coach, Raymond Domenech. Anelka is now unlikely to be available for the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Liverpool at Anfield.
Meanwhile, the goalkeeper Petr Cech believes Chelsea must take advantage of playing the opening leg away from home. The Blues have been drawn to face Liverpool for a fifth successive year. He said: "I think the away game will be very important. The mathematics is clear – an away goal can decide this tie."