John Terry has admitted Chelsea no longer have the squad to deal with their recent injury and suspension problems.
The Blues are in the midst of their worst run in the Barclays Premier League for more than a decade, a sequence which co-incided with the absence of Terry, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien.
Chelsea have arguably boasted the strongest squad in the country in recent years but a change of policy behind the scenes led to a summer cull of some of their experienced players in favour of more youngsters being blooded.
The effect of that was not apparent initially as the champions began the season at a canter but they have won only one of their last seven league games to slump to fourth in the table.
Their key players are now back and captain Terry is adamant all the club's title rivals will slip up before the end of the season. But he believes it is vital Chelsea do not suffer any more injuries to their star names during the hectic festive period.
"We've missed some key players at key times and it is a case of keeping everyone fit now over the Christmas period, where we have two games in three days," he told his club's official website. "In the past we had a big squad and could rotate and put other players in. We don't have that now, we have quite a young squad and it's a time for everyone to stay together like we always will."