Jose Mourinho will aim to balance a refreshed team with a winning one when Chelsea, still reeling from the New Year’s Day loss at Tottenham, host Watford in the FA Cup third round on Sunday.
Rather than send his front-line players into battle swiftly after a loss which saw Chelsea’s Barclays Premier League advantage wiped out, Mourinho is likely to rotate his options after an arduous festive schedule.
“Obviously we are going to rest a couple of players. That’s normal,” he said.
“And give a chance to other people to play and to show (what they can do).
“Obviously we want to try to beat Watford, but at the same time we have to analyse the players’ condition and make the right decision for them.”
Striker Diego Costa and forward Eden Hazard are among the front-line Chelsea players who could be rotated out of the starting XI.
Petr Cech could replace Thibaut Courtois in goal, depending on the severity of the latter’s finger injury, while Oscar, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic could also be afforded a rest after the 5-3 loss at White Hart Lane.
Rather than turn to youth, like Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Dominic Solanke or Lewis Baker, Mourinho is planning to field players who have been on the first-team periphery this term, like Ramires, who has been hampered by a niggling groin injury, but remains an integral figure in the season run-in.
“I have players from the first-team and players that we need to have in condition to play,” Mourinho said.
“Hopefully Ramires is getting there step by step. He played 45 minutes (against Tottenham).
“He’s a player we need and he’s a player we haven’t had for the first part of the season.
“When we had him he was not really ready and finally he looks like he’s almost getting there.”
Mourinho is still to ascertain the full extent of Courtois’ finger problem, but has a more than capable deputy in Cech, who may have played anyway.
The Blues boss added: “He (Courtois) has a problem in one of his fingers. Let’s see what happens.
“I don’t know (if it’s broken). I didn’t ask. I just asked if he could carry on at half-time (at Spurs).”
When Chelsea were unbeaten, eight points clear of Manchester City in the Premier League and apparently cruising, thoughts of some turned to a quadruple quest.
Now, with a championship title battle in full swing, the FA Cup could be deemed a distraction, but Mourinho’s approach remains.
“It’s impossible to go for one trophy, or two, or three, or four,” he said.
“It’s only possible to go for the next match. And the next match is FA Cup and we want to try to win the FA Cup. Simple as that.
“We don’t choose competitions. We choose the next match and the next match is against Watford. And it’s an important match.
“It’s a difficult game. It’s a good team, one of the best teams in the Championship.
“We have the experience of the difficulties against teams like Bolton, Derby, teams that we played already this season.
“They have a good team. They are fresh. They didn’t play this New Year fixture.
“They will go to try to beat us, so we need to be alert because the game is going to be difficult.”
John Terry hopes Chelsea will respond to seeing their advantage over defending Premier League champions City evaporate.
Frank Lampard, a team-mate of Terry’s for 13 seasons at Stamford Bridge, scored to earn last season’s league winners victory over Sunderland before Chelsea’s defeat at Spurs.
“It’s hard to see them claw us back,” Terry said on chelseafc.com.
“We were eight points in front and now we’re level on points.
“It’s disappointing to have lost that lead but we said in the dressing room we’ll come together, put a run together and hopefully get a lead again.”
The defeat could have many ramifications, not least for the title race and Mourinho, who invited scrutiny on the performance of referee Phil Dowd at White Hart Lane and could face Football Association disciplinary action.
Cahill could also be punished retrospectively for kicking Spurs striker Harry Kane in the back.