Chelsea's striker Didier Drogba yesterday admitted his body is struggling to cope with the gruelling demands of chasing the Double. Drogba, 32, has enjoyed one of his best seasons at Stamford Bridge, scoring 32 goals in 40 games for Chelsea, as well as playing for Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations in January.
However, he is struggling with a groin injury which has been troubling him for months, and which flared up at half-time against Tottenham last weekend. He had to play on with the injury because manager Carlo Ancelotti had used all three substitutes.
Chelsea, who hold a one-point lead at the top of the Premier League table ahead of Sunday's home game with Stoke City, desperately need Drogba to lead the cause, following the surprise 2-1 defeat at White Hart Lane. But the Ivorian had admitted that with the club closing in on their first Premier League title for four years and with the FA Cup final against Portsmouth looming, he is unable to play at full power.
"Maybe adrenalin has got me through matches," Drogba said, "but you can't continue for long like that. The season's long and I've had quite a few niggles and I'm starting to feel it a bit. I had a hernia operation six years ago but it's playing up again and causing me discomfort.
"I will see if I need an operation, but something needs to be done because I can't continue like this next season. There's no question of having anything done now though, with the World Cup on the way."
Drogba's stark admission comes after midfielder John Obi Mikel was ruled out for three weeks with a knee injury, and it was revealed Michael Essien is unlikely to feature again this season.
Mikel, 22, suffered torn cartilage ligaments in the defeat to Tottenham and is unlikely to feature before the FA Cup final. "It's a little tear in the knee meniscus," the Nigerian said. "I won't play this weekend, and the doctors say it will take about three weeks to heal, although there will be no surgery."
The Chelsea captain, John Terry, is suspended for the Stoke game, following his red card against Tottenham last weekend, and Ricardo Carvalho is not ready to return from his ankle injury, leaving Ancelotti without both his first-choice centre-backs. Alex and Branislav Ivanovic are likely to step in. Either Michael Ballack or Juliano Belletti will deputise for Mikel.
Ancelotti will, however, be pleased by the return of Ashley Cole, who is set to make his comeback following two months out with a broken ankle sustained against Everton on 10 February. The Russian Yury Zhirkov has deputised with distinction but Ancelotti is understood to prefer Cole's better defensive strength for the visit of Stoke.
The return of Cole will also be a relief for the England manager, Fabio Capello, who had feared that the defender might miss the World Cup when he was injured.