Talk about the wheels falling off the infamous Jose Mourinho defensive bus at the most inopportune time.
Chelsea travelled to Atletico Madrid's Vicente Calderon Stadium on Tuesday for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final match-up, and although the 0-0 draw would suggest the Blues are in prime position to make it to the tournament final for the second time in three years, the suspension/injury list is a dark and dreary place for some crucial Chelsea veterans.
Petr Cech will reportedly miss the rest of the season with a dislocated shoulder after colliding with Atleti's Raul Garcia in the mouth of the goal in the 16th minute. Mark Schwarzer became the oldest man to ever feature in a Champions League semi-final at 41 years of age after coming on for the injured Cech, and put in a more confident performance than his last outing when he allowed for a soft Sunderland goal during their loss at the weekend.
The 31-year-old Cech has been a staple in their Premier League-best defense all season, and without their skipper and centre-back John Terry, who also was subbed off due to an apparent sprained ankle in the second half, Mourinho is missing a few key rocks in the foundation of his first XI.
Terry looks like a severe doubt for the second leg at Stamford Bridge, but one saving grace for Chelsea is that they were without first-choice right back Branislav Ivanovich for an accumulation of yellow cards.
The big Serbian will certainly help cushion the blow of losing their first-team center back, and will either slide into the middle to immediately replace Terry or shift back to the right side, where David Luiz will probably play the central role with Gary Cahill, forcing Cesar Azpilicueta to move back to the left back position where he's played the majority of the season.
It's not an adjustment Mourinho is looking forward to making, but it's a situation that should be seen with more optimism than it will undoubtedly receive. If the two injuries weren't enough to give the Chelsea gaffer an excruciatingly painful series of migraines, then suspensions for midfield veterans Frank Lampard and Jon Obi Mikel certainly will inflict some pain.
Not only is Lampard the leading scorer in club history, but his grit and class in the middle of the pitch has proved to be one of Chelsea's most positive facets in Europe this season.
Mikel is a player that's come across scrutiny since being constantly included in Roberto di Matteo's Champions League winning side in 2012, but there's a reason why the 27-year-old Nigerian finds his way into the side regardless of the ever-changing managerial situation at Stamford Bridge. His vision and simplicity in front of the back-line is a major addition to any club challenging for success in Europe, and his reliability and toughness going into challenges makes him a force to be reckoned with in front of either 18 yard box.
With cup-tied Nemanja Matic looking helplessly on from the stands, the options at the defensive midfield role look few and far between, seeing as David Luiz will most likely shift into the back-line as mentioned earlier. The role will likely fall to Ramires, whose lack of size will be something Diego Simeone and Atleti try to expose through the center of the pitch.
Overall, Jose Mourinho is missing four of his most Europe-experienced players for a tough second-leg against this surging Atletico side. His Chelsea side were able to frustrate the home side and record a crucial draw in Madrid on Tuesday, but that was with the help of four of his big blue horses.
It'll be very interesting to see what the Special One comes up with to try and lift his team to the Champions League final in Lisbon.
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