Ex-Chelsea coach Ray Wilkins says Rafa Benitez should shoulder the blame for Ashley Cole's hamstring injury which will keep him out of action for at least two weeks.
Cole pulled up early on in Chelsea's 1-0 FA Cup win over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge - the Blues second game in as many days following their 2-1 defeat against Southampton on Saturday.
The England full-back didn't feature in that game and Wilkins, who coached at Chelsea for two years and was assistant manager to Carlo Ancelotti in 2010, believes that the fact that Cole went into the game having taken no part at St. Mary's may have made him more vulnerable to injury.
He told TalkSPORT: ‘I am sick of the word “tired” in football. We used to play Easter Friday, Saturday and Monday.
‘Cole never played at Southampton on Saturday, he plays 15 minutes against United and Danny Welbeck takes him on a run and he pulls his hamstring.
‘I honestly feel he has to play all the time, Ashley. He is one of these machines. You have to keep it well oiled and it will fly. Had he played on Saturday, he wouldn’t have done that yesterday.’
While victory over Manchester United set up an FA Cup semi-final date against Manchester City, the defeat against Southampton means Chelsea are on the verge of falling out of the top four, with just two points separating them from Arsenal in 5th place.
Benitez has been criticised for seemingly favouring the FA Cup over securing Champions League football by fielding two very different sides. The Spaniard insists a top four finish is his priority but Wilkins believes Chelsea are more than capable of playing games in quick succession and Benitez should have fielded a full-strength team for both matches.
"I think Rafa Benitez took a little bit of a liberty at the weekend with the side he selected," he said. "These guys can play two games in three days, no problem at all. Champions League football for a club like Chelsea is paramount.
‘These players are super-fit and I don’t think you can take liberties in the Premier League. Southampton have beaten Manchester City, they have beaten Liverpool, and they took Manchester United the distance.’
Chelsea's fixture pile-up continues through April, with the Blues facing 6 games in the next 13 games.