Chelsea are beset by injury problems and low morale as the troubled champions look to get their Premier League title defence back on track against Watford on Saturday.
Antonio Conte’s side have not won in the last three matches in all competitions, unexpectedly losing 2-1 at Crystal Palace last weekend and drawing 3-3 at home to Roma in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Victor Moses, N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater are all sidelined by injuries, while David Luiz and Tiemoue Bakayoko are both doubts for Watford’s visit to Stamford Bridge.
It could mean Cesc Fabregas is the only fit midfielder available for Conte, and Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta summed up the glum feeling after the Roma game when he said: “The mood at the moment is not the best.
“We had the game in our hands when we were 2-0 up, but we also had it lost when we were 3-2 down.
“It is true we are not in our best moment. We came into the game after two consecutive defeats in the Premier League.
“To come back into the game to get a point is big for the team, to show the character and that we won’t give up.
“The reality is we have gone three games without a win and we will try to get back to winning ways on Saturday.”
Chelsea captain Gary Cahill admits the squad has been stretched thin by the hectic fixture schedule.
But the defender is staying upbeat, claiming they have a chance to play their way back into form during the busy period.
Cahill, who should start despite having stitches in his head against Roma, said: “It does take a toll. Certainly it is because you are playing every three days and the recovery in between is short.
“Alongside that we are having important injuries and everyone knows we don’t have a humongous squad. I don’t want to look at them as excuses, they are facts.”
– ‘Stuttering’ –
Cahill added: “I think we have to look at the amount of games we are playing as a help. You need to work on the training pitch as well, but you need games to put it into practice. I think it is a positive for us.
“We realise at this moment in time we are stuttering a little bit in terms of the performance levels we have shown or are capable of.”
Fourth-placed Watford, two points ahead of Chelsea, are likely to play the same team for the trip to west London as they did in their surprise 2-1 victory over Arsenal last week.
But Hornets boss Marco Silva may not turn to Troy Deeney, despite his influential display as a substitute against Arsenal last week.
Deeney scored Watford’s penalty equaliser and then criticised Arsenal in a post-match television interview, something that Silva was not happy with.
“Troy Deeney knows my opinion on what he said and I want to finish this situation,” Silva said.
“My opinion will stay between me and him. I spoke to him about everything.
“It is important for us and a club for our players to speak about our work and what we do as a team.
“For my players we must look inside and not outside and respect ourselves as well. Has he listened? We will see.”