Chelsea's ongoing pursuit of David Luiz looked set to drag on for at least another 24 hours today after the defender returned to the Benfica squad for tonight's Portuguese Cup tie at Rio Ave.
The 23-year-old's omission from the selection for Saturday's Primera Liga win over Nacional was seen as an indication a deal with the Barclays Premier League champions was close.
That may still be the case but Chelsea are running out of time to wrap it up, with the transfer window set to close at midnight on Monday.
The Blues are remaining silent about the progress of negotiations, which the Portuguese press today described as ongoing, although it has been suggested the parties are haggling over a player-plus-cash deal.
Slobodan Rajkovic and Nemanja Matic, currently at Vitesse Arnhem on season-long loans from Stamford Bridge, have been mentioned as possible makeweights.
Meanwhile, two other youngsters, Gael Kakuta and Patrick van Aanholt, have gone out on loan until the end of the season.
Winger Kakuta completed his temporary transfer to Fulham this afternoon, while left-back Van Aanholt will spend a third spell in the npower Championship after joining Leicester, having been at both Coventry and Newcastle last term.
Both will doubtless benefit from regular first-team action, although they have left a hole in the Chelsea squad that would arguably need to be filled before the end of the month.
The champions' struggle to cope with injuries to key players towards the end of 2010 have been well-documented and they would not want to be caught short again.
The return of their star names to full fitness has co-incided with their current revival, which sees them having won their last three games in all competitions, scoring 13 goals without reply.
The victory that started it all was the FA Cup third-round thrashing of Ipswich and the Blues will continue their defence of the trophy on Saturday when they face a tough tie at Everton.
They will then attempt to close the 10-point gap to league leaders Manchester United, which the latter opened up after last night's thrilling comeback from 2-0 down to beat Blackpool.
Stamford Bridge goalkeeper Petr Cech believes anything is possible for last season's double-winners, whose 4-0 victory at Bolton on Monday night ended a wait of almost three months for an away win and moved them three points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham in the race for England's final Champions League spot.
"As we said before the Ipswich game, we are looking for a run and we've got now three victories in a row, three clean sheets in a row, we scored lots of goals," Cech told Chelsea TV.
"I think this is the run you need to forget about the bad moment, the bad period we experienced.
"This is the way to come back into the title race and this is the way to secure the Champions League place.
"We will see in the next games what it's going to be like.
"There's still a long way to go and we need to keep going to have a chance to close the gap."Reuse content