Chelsea, who are without an away win in all competitions for two and a half months, face the possibility of travelling to Bolton Wanderers on Monday night without both John Terry and Frank Lampard.
The prospect is a daunting one for the Premier League champions whose season fell apart at the end of last year when their two most experienced players were sidelined. Neither player is seriously injured – Terry missed training for the past three days with another back problem while Lampard tweaked a calf muscle on Wednesday – but both face a fight to be ready for Monday's trip to the Reebok Stadium.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti is more hopeful that Terry will be fit. He said: "We have a little problem with Lampard and we have to check on him. He's having treatment and didn't train, but I hope he will be ready to play. Terry had a little problem on his back and has done different training, but we've got three days to check them and take a decision on the game. We have more possibilities with Terry. Lampard, I really don't know if he's available or not."
The news is a blow for Ancelotti as Chelsea have started to rediscover their old mojo, with victories over Ipswich in the FA Cup and over Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League. But the real test will come with how they cope on the road, as they have lost five and drawn two of their seven away fixtures since beating Blackburn on 30 October.
Ancelotti said: "This is the reason we've lost our position in the table. It will be difficult and it's important we come back to win. We have to show the bad moment has gone.
"Looking at the way the players have trained, it seems we're really better. The players are fitter, are training with more confidence. But it doesn't matter if I feel things are better. We have to make a result."
Chelsea continue to negotiate with Benfica over defender David Luiz, having missed out on Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar to Tottenham Hotspur. Ancelotti said the South African was not a priority.
"I didn't search Steven Pienaar to come here to play for Chelsea. We don't need a midfielder. We have fantastic midfielders here already," Ancelotti said, even though Chelsea had a £3m fee accepted by Everton but could not agree terms with the player.