London - With Wayne Rooney back from injury in time for Manchester United's trip to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea couldn't have picked a worse time to be without two of their star defenders for Sunday's important match in the Premier League title race.
On the same day John Terry was removed as England captain while he awaits trial in July on charges of racially abusing an opponent, the center back was ruled out on Friday of United's visit and probably next weekend's match at Everton too with a knee injury.
With England team-mate Ashley Cole also suspended following his red card against Swansea on Tuesday, fourth-place Chelsea are already facing an uphill battle to secure a victory that would trim the gap to United to nine points.
"John Terry is the captain, a leader on the pitch and off it and he is a great player so we will miss him of course," Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas said.
"We are missing Ashley as well and those two players are in the top four of most-used players. But we cannot be crying out when we miss players ... we have a very big squad which enables to us to approach the game with belief."
Rooney is one of four high-profile players set for comebacks from injury this weekend for United, who have won their last three matches to move level with Manchester City at the top of the standings.
United manager Alex Ferguson may also recalled central midfielder Tom Cleverley and wingers Nani and Ashley Young.
Rooney and Nani have been training for two days after recovering from injuries sustained in the January 22 win at Arsenal. Young has been out since December and Cleverley has been out since October.
"We've done very well away from home this season and we need to be good from now on," Ferguson said. "We've got some really important away games in the run-in - Chelsea, Tottenham and Man City. They're going to be crucial games."
Goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard is out of action for as long as six weeks because of an ankle injury, leaving David De Gea likely to start and Ben Amos set to fill in on the bench.
United - unlike regular top-four rivals Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool - have no worries over whether they will qualify for next season's Champions League.
The defending champions have won five of their last six meetings with Chelsea but the Blues won the other match in that sequence 2-1 in last season's corresponding fixture.