Rafael Benitez today admitted John Terry could travel to the Club World Cup before making his Chelsea comeback.
Interim Blues boss Benitez revealed captain Terry was pushing him to return from the knee injury that has sidelined him for almost three weeks.
But the Spaniard was not prepared to risk the defender in tomorrow's Barclays Premier League game at West Ham or Wednesday's Champions League clash with Nordsjaelland.
Chelsea have one more match after that before they fly to Japan for their bid to be crowned world champions, next weekend's trip to Sunderland.
Asked if Terry could travel without having returned, Benitez said: "Yeah, it could be.
"It's a question of confidence. When you forget you have that problem in your knee is when you are ready."
He added: "He's pushing - 'I want to be there, I want to be involved' - but still he will need some time.
"It's a knee, not just a muscle. You have to see the reaction when you turn.
"You cannot put him in a position where he could get injured again."
Terry has seen just 130 minutes of first-team football since the beginning of October due to a combination of his racism ban and injury.
Benitez has been impressed by the 31-year-old's mentality since his own appointment as Chelsea boss.
He said: "Early this morning, he was in front of me walking on to the pitch and he didn't know I was following him.
"Three young players were coming along and the way he approached them was quite positive."
Frank Lampard could also travel to the Club World Cup before returning from the calf problem that has ruled him out for more than a month.
Benitez admitted Chelsea had missed their captain and vice-captain, whose absence co-incided with the alarming slump that saw Roberto Di Matteo sacked as manager.
He said: "You have to analyse what has been happening in the last month, but you can see these players with this character and leadership can be helpful when things are wrong."