Chelsea have moved to deny claims that Michael Ballack's omission from their Champions League squad is based on their desire to offload him when the transfer window reopens.
The Germany captain has been left off the Blues' 25-man squad that is eligible to play in the six group stages matches in Europe, despite Ballack himself suggesting he will be fit for at least four of the games.
But Chelsea have reiterated their initial claim that the 31-year-old midfielder is injured after undergoing ankle surgery in May and insist their decision has been taken purely on medical advice.
"Chelsea would like to reiterate that Michael Ballack's omission from the UEFA Champions League group phase squad list was taken only because of injury," read a club statement.
"There is no other reason for the decision and suggestions to the contrary are unfair on both Michael, who is attempting to get fit as soon as possible, and our medical team in whom we have every confidence."
Ballack has been linked with a Stamford Bridge exit after a disappointing first season in the Premier League.
The former Bayern Munich star started just 23 league games before reportedly angering Blues boss Jose Mourinho by returning to Germany for surgery on an ankle problem before last season's FA Cup final.
Meanwhile, team-mate Andriy Shevchenko could be on collision course with Mourinho after questioning his own omission from the side so far this season.
Chelsea claim the Ukraine international is still recovering from hernia surgery earlier in the summer, but Shevchenko insists he is fit and ready to play.
"I don't know why Mourinho isn't playing me - I don't understand it," he said.
"But I'm not worried. I will just wait for my chance to come."