Chelsea will maintain focus amid Mark Clattenburg affair insists Gary Cahill

 

Gary Cahill insisted Chelsea's trophy charge would not be derailed by the Mark Clattenburg affair after helping them stay in the Capital One Cup by the skin of their teeth.

The European champions teetered on the brink of elimination before completing a sensational comeback to beat Manchester United 5-4 after extra-time.

Had Eden Hazard not made it 3-3 with the last kick of normal time from the penalty spot, more serious questions would have been asked of what would have been Chelsea's third successive defeat, an unprecedented slump in a single season during the Roman Abramovich era.

The fact it would have come on the back of the club's allegations that referee Clattenburg used "inappropriate language" towards John Obi Mikel - something Clattenburg is understood to strenuously deny - would have led to even more parallels being drawn with what befell them last season.

As in Sunday's bitter Barclays Premier League defeat to United, Chelsea saw two players sent off in their 1-0 defeat at QPR in October 2011 before becoming embroiled in the John Terry racism row.

Then manager Andre Villas-Boas pinpointed that match as the catalyst for the downward spiral that saw him sacked.

Cahill, who joined Chelsea in January at the height of the Terry scandal, was confident history would not repeat itself.

"It's important that we don't let anything affect us and we showed that won't happen," he said.

"Whatever is going on off the pitch, players relish playing football."

Cahill was one of only five Chelsea players from Sunday's XI against United to start Wednesday night's revenge mission.

"I had never felt as angry and disappointed about a game two days later and we really wanted to put that right," he added.

"Although we were very unfortunate on Sunday, it was important that we got back to winning ways after two sticky results, especially against Manchester United."

There was no escaping the Clattenburg affair for Chelsea, even in the quarter-final draw of the League Cup, which saw them handed a trip to old foes Leeds just 24 hours after Neil Warnock lambasted them over their handling of the matter.

A Leeds-Chelsea clash needs no stoking up, something of which Cahill was acutely aware.

"I know there is a bit of history and atmosphere between the two clubs so it's set up nicely for a great game," he said of the tie, which will take place at Elland Road on December 19 due to the European champions' involvement in the Club World Cup in Japan.

The fixture will be a week after the other quarter-finals and add to a punishing schedule that could see Chelsea play eight times in 29 days.

"The squad is maybe not as big as some others but we have got enough depth in there to cope with the number of games," Cahill said.

"It is going to be a busy period, so resting up is going to be as important as training.

"We have only lost one game in nine and, if we can keep that form going, that would be great."

That statistic applies to the league only ahead of Saturday's trip to Swansea, where Cahill will start again while Terry serves the final instalment of his four-match racism ban.

Cahill reiterated his frustration at his lack of game time when Terry and David Luiz have both been available.

"The bench is not where I want to be," he said.

"It has been frustrating for me at times this season but I think we rotate the team well and as long as you are getting as much game time as other people and not looked upon as the third-choice then that is fine."

Luiz's Jekyll-and-Hyde form has returned with a vengeance in recent games and Cahill was keen to point out the solidity of his own partnership with former England captain Terry.

"I think we have proved that in the games we have played for England and Chelsea," he said.

"With the amount of fixtures we have got coming up, I don't think you can keep a pair together consistently.

"You are going to be changing, but it's important that you are up there in that rotation, and it is rotation."

PA

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