Chelsea host Blackburn at Stamford Bridge on Saturday in dire need of a win to keep them within range of leaders Manchester United.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side has won just once in their past nine in their flailing English Premier League defence, and despite a comprehensive 7-0 thrashing of Ipswich Town in their third-round FA Cup encounter to boost morale, Chelsea need to win against Blackburn to settle speculation the Italian is on borrowed time at the club.
Striker Daniel Sturridge scored twice in the victory over Ipswich in front of the home fans, but Ancelotti refused to guarantee the youngster with a start against Rovers.
“He played well, scored, is a good player and a good striker, very dangerous,” Ancelotti said.
“In the future, he’ll have opportunities. We have a lot of games in this period coming up. I think he has to fight with the other strikers, but everyone has to fight. There are a lot of players in competition up front.”
The Blues will be without John Obi Mikel due to a knee injury, while long-term absentees Alex, Yossi Benayoun and Yuri Zhirkov are also on the sidelines.
Meanwhile, for caretaker manager Steve Kean, Blackburn can climb into the European placings with a win at Stamford Bridge but are without Australian midfielder Brett Emerton who is on international duty this month at the Asian Cup.
Striker Jason Roberts returned from injury as a second-half substitute in his side’s 1-0 FA Cup win over Queens Park Rangers and will be set to start for the clash at Chelsea in the absence of suspended front man Nikola Kalinic.
Goalkeeper Paul Robinson, Steven Nzonzi, Phil Jones, Keith Andrews and Vinnie Grella are Rovers’ long-term casualties.