Chelsea fear they could be without their captain, Gary Cahill, for Saturday’s eagerly anticipated FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur, with the England defender struggling to recover from an illness which has affected him all week and saw him hospitalised for two days.
The Premier League leaders had their preparations for last Sunday’s game at Manchester United disrupted by a bug which they feared may have spread at a team bonding meal, with Victor Moses, Diego Costa and Marcos Alonso all unable to train before the defeat at Old Trafford. Alonso had initially declared himself fit on the afternoon of the game only to withdraw after the pre-match warm-up, with his sudden absence affecting the balance of Antonio Conte’s lineup.
While Moses – who was substituted after 54 minutes – and Costa were fit enough to start the game and have trained since, Cahill succumbed to illness on Tuesday, when he was taken to hospital. He remained there on Wednesday and was eventually discharged on Thursday.
The 31-year old’s illness is not believed to be a result of the virus which affected his team-mates, but his absence may potentially result in John Terry being recalled to the team in the same week that the 36-year-old and Chelsea issued a joint statement confirming he will leave the club at the expiry of his contract in June, having been reduced to a bit-part role this season.
Terry has managed only 366 minutes in the Premier League, and only six since limping away from the draw at Swansea City in mid-September, but has made three starts in the FA Cup and would be a natural replacement for Cahill as the left-sided of Conte’s three centre-halves.
However, the Italian has favoured Kurt Zouma of late and could even consider Nathan Ake, under-used since his return from a loan spell at Bournemouth, on the left side of the backline against Spurs. Thibaut Courtois, who hurt an ankle while playing basketball at a Chelsea promotional shoot for the NBA last week, is expected to feature at Wembley having trained this week.
Yet the potential loss of Cahill, voted alongside David Luiz in the PFA’s Premier League team of the year, would represent a blow for Conte as his side seek to recover lost momentum after having their lead in the Premier League cut to four points with six games to go. Tottenham are their closest rivals, and on an eight-match winning streak in all competitions, with the chance to inflict a psychological blow on bitter rivals very obvious.