Blues boss Jose Mourinho is expected to make changes to his side for Sunday’s crucial match at Anfield against title rivals Liverpool.
Having made it clear his priorities lie in winning the Champions League after the midweek 0-0 draw away at Atletico Madrid, a number of fringe players could get their chance at the table-topping Reds.
John Terry’s absence will likely cause the biggest headache for Mourinho, who suffered an ankle injury in midweek. The captain’s injury, combined with a probable rest for the likes of Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole, means defensive options are limited.
Czech Republic international Tomas Kalas could well make his first start for the Blues, while 18-year-old Nathan Ake could also make his first appearance for the club since the last day of last season.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech will also miss the game, with his season over thanks to a dislocated shoulder. Mark Schwarzer is expected to deputise to the end of the campaign.
Ramires will also be unavailable for selection, having received a retrospective four-match ban for his elbow on Sunderland’s Seb Larsson.
The game comes too soon for Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto’o, who have failed to recover from their respective injuries. With Fernando Torres likely to lead the line against his former club Atletico next Wednesday, Demba Ba will likely start up front this Sunday.
Hazard may be fit for the Atletico clash, with Mourinho admitting he will have to wait until nearer the time to see if the Belgian is available. Hazard’s absence for Sunday at least means there may be a place for Andre Schurrle at Anfield.
However, there is good news for Mourinho.
Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah will again be available for selection, after being cup-tied for the Atletico Madrid game.
With Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel ruled out of the match at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday thanks to an accumulation of yellow cards, they will likely play some part this weekend.
Branislav Ivanovic will also be fit to return, however whether he takes his usual position on the right hand side of defence, or will plug the gap left by JT at centre back remains to be seen.
Marco Van Ginkel could also return, having been out since Chelsea’s League Cup game at Swindon back in September with a knee injury.
The hosts are not without selection problems of their own, however.
Daniel Sturridge is still battling the remains of a hamstring problem and so may not feature against the club he once made 96 appearances and scored 24 goals for.
Jordan Henderson is currently serving a 3 match ban, ruling him out for the Reds until the last day of the season. Left back Jose Enrique remains out, with his season ended prematurely after knee surgery.
A victory for Liverpool will end Chelsea’s title hopes, putting them an unassailable 8 points behind with 2 games to play, leaving Manchester City as the only team who can stop Liverpool claiming their first title for 24 years.
Should Chelsea beat Liverpool, they will still need Liverpool to drop points elsewhere as well as make sure they win all their remaining games. After a shock home loss to Sunderland in the last league outing derailing the Blues title bid, it perhaps typifies the way this season has gone, with form books going out the window with frightening regularity. This could form some solace for Mourinho and the Stamford Bridge faithful, especially in the knowledge Liverpool must travel to Selhurst Park to play Crystal Palace, another team who surprised Chelsea.
Form points to a home win, with Liverpool winning their last 11 on the bounce, and Chelsea winning 3 and losing 3 of their last 6 games. However, Chelsea did win the reverse earlier in the season, with Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto’o giving the Blues all three points in December. That win was however Chelsea’s first league win against Liverpool since May 2010, and sealed the last time Chelsea completed a league double over Sunday’s opposition.
Chelsea did of course beat Liverpool since then, winning the 2011/12 FA Cup final in a 2-1 win.
Chelsea have only ever won 10 times at Anfield in 76 attempts in their history, and winning roughly a third of all encounters since their first meeting in 1907 (54 wins in 159 games).
So despite heading into the game underdogs both historically and based on current form, the way this season has gone, it would be wrong to rule out an away win, thus keeping the Blues’ fading title hopes alive.