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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor