Chelsea will have to soldier on without both first-choice centre-halves after it emerged yesterday that John Terry and Alex both have chronic injury problems.
Terry has admitted he is in agony with a nerve problem in his right leg that shows no signs of improving, while Alex is to undergo surgery on a knee injury and will be out for eight weeks.
The Brazilian, who is currently in Qatar where he has been looked at by his national team's doctors, went for a scan on Monday to assess the injury he received a week earlier in the 2-0 defeat at Liverpool, and the diagnosis is that he needs keyhole surgery to determine the full extent of the injury.
A club statement yesterday said: "Further to the Chelsea medical team's diagnosis, the Brazilian national team doctors agree that further investigation via arthroscopic surgery is required on the player's right knee. That will take place over the coming days. He is expected to be out for approximately six to eight weeks."
The news follows an interview in which Terry admitted the club's doctors have yet to diagnose his problem of shooting pains down his right leg, which often leaves him in agony just getting out of bed or driving his car.
Terry said: "I am trying whatever is suggested. I'm at my wits' end. It could be weeks, it could be months. Everybody is coming up with names and I've said I will go anywhere if someone can solve the problem."
Chelsea admitted yesterday they are no closer to solving the problem that has required Terry to undergo painkilling injections before every game. The England manager Fabio Capello said Terry had been carrying the injury for some time. "Now you understand why he never played with us for four games. Every time he suffered the problem," Capello said.
The double injury blow comes as Chelsea attempt to rebuild their dented confidence following Sunday's 3-0 home defeat to Sunderland, and may force the club into the transfer market in January. The defensive pair were missing from the defeat – the worst result since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003 – when the makeshift centre-back pairing was Paulo Ferreira and Branislav Ivanovic.
The duo are likely to be forced into action again on Saturday when they must travel to Birmingham City, and will have to cope with 6ft 7in striker Nikola Zigic. The following weekend Chelsea are on the road again, to face Newcastle United and their 6ft 3in target man Andy Carroll. Just to further complicate matters, Ivanovic is a booking away from a one-game ban. Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti could also turn to the untested Dutch defender Jeffrey Bruma, who was named as the replacement for Ricardo Carvalho when the Portuguese veteran was sold to Real Madrid in the summer but was overlooked for the Sunderland game.
In the longer term, Chelsea have the option of recalling Michael Mancienne from his season's long loan at Wolverhampton Wanderers in January.