Chelsea's small squad exposed by injuries, admits Terry

The big players are back, but for how long? The worry at Chelsea, as the champions enter a Christmas programme of four matches in 10 days, is that the rush of fixtures will overwhelm a much smaller squad than has previously been the case in the Roman Abramovich era. This concern was revealed yesterday by John Terry, and tacitly confirmed by his manager, Carlo Ancelotti.

Pondering the recent poor run of form, Chelsea's worst in 10 years, Terry said: "We've missed some key players at key times. In the past we had a big squad and could rotate and put other players in, we don't have that now, we have quite a young squad."

This is deliberate, Chelsea having decided to trim the wage bill and inject fresh legs into an ageing squad by promoting youth, home-grown where possible. The problem, admitted Ancelotti, is that, "When you are not in a good moment, it's very difficult to put in the young players because you don't want to put responsibility on their shoulders."

In the summer Chelsea moved on Ricardo Carvalho, Deco, Joe Cole and Michael Ballack, average age 31, combined caps around 300. In came Yossi Benayoun, who has been injured since September, 23-year-old Ramires and, from the youth team, Josh McEachran. More was expected of youngsters Gaël Kakuta, Patrick van Aanholt, Jeffrey Bruma and Daniel Sturridge.

Chelsea began the season in formidable form but with Terry, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien suffering injury, and Didier Drogba catching malaria, they have won only one of their last seven league games to slide from first to fourth.

That quartet are back but their fitness will be tested over the holiday programme, as Terry recognised. "It's a case of keeping everyone fit over the Christmas period and waiting for other teams to slip up, which they will do. It's a time for everyone to stay together like we always do. Once we've turned that corner we can move on."

Terry noted that Chelsea begin with two games in three days (Arsenal on Monday, Bolton on Wednesday), a schedule which angers Ancelotti. "I want to say something about the Bolton game because we won't have the possibility to recover," he said. "We'll have two days, Bolton three. That's not good to have one day less to recover. I'm not happy about it." The reason, of course, is television scheduling. Chelsea, like every other club, are happy to take the broadcasters' cash and must deal with the consequences. Chelsea have at least had 15 days to prepare for the Arsenal match and, with Jose Bosingwa recovered, now have only Benayoun, Alex and Yuri Zhirkov absent.

Drogba's fitness could be as significant as Lampard's. The Ivory Coast striker has scored 13 times in as many games against Arsenal and Ancelotti said: "I think they are a little bit afraid of Drogba, because he's done very well against them. If Drogba plays his best, we'll have more opportunity to win."

If Manchester United defeat Sunderland on Boxing Day Chelsea will be six points adrift. Ancelotti concluded: "We don't want that gap to widen. It's important to obtain a result."

* The postponed meeting of Chelsea and United has been tentatively rescheduled for Tuesday 1 March, depending on both sides' FA Cup commitments.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam