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Gary Cahill hoping Chelsea squad can avoid injuries this season

Gary Cahill says Chelsea cannot afford many injuries this season as they try to defend their Premier League title while returning to the Champions League with a squad short on numbers.

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has repeatedly stressed the need for his side to make further signings before the end of August, and said prior to Sunday's penalty-shootout defeat to Arsenal in the Community Shield that he is anticipating the "most difficult season" of his managerial career.

Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Antonio Rudiger and Willy Caballero are the only significant additions to a squad that has lost Nemanja Matic, Nathan Ake, John Terry, Nathaniel Chalobah and Asmir Begovic this summer, while Kurt Zouma and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have also been loaned out.

Eden Hazard and Bakayoko are sidelined for the opening weeks of the season through injury, while Pedro Rodriguez will play with a protective face mask after suffering multiple fractures in a preseason collision with Arsenal keeper David Ospina. Diego Costa, meanwhile, remains in exile until a return to Atletico Madrid can be agreed.

Chelsea's lack of available numbers in comparison to rivals Arsenal was highlighted by the squad lists published on the back of the matchday programme at Wembley and Cahill, who has succeeded Terry as club captain, says the Premier League champions have little margin for further misfortune.

Chelsea defender Gary Cahill
Gary Cahill is expecting a testing season ahead.

"The back of the programme was interesting," Cahill told the Evening Standard after Sunday's loss. "In terms of quality we've certainly got that, but you have to hope we don't have too many injuries.

"Obviously the [four] new players who have just come, they're going to be vitally important. There's no doubt we've added quality to the team.

"But with playing more games due to the Champions League this season, the numbers are going to be tested. We just have to keep everybody fit and sharp.

"As players we are in control of what we do and the way we prepare for the games. The other stuff outside of that [transfers] is none of our business."

Chelsea's difficult summer has for some evoked memories of the disjointed preseason preparations that led to a disastrous 2015-16 campaign and Jose Mourinho's sacking by December, but Cahill says he has no concerns of repeating the experience.

"The mood in the camp is fine," the England international added. "The Community Shield is not a setback but I do see it as a disappointment.

"It is hurtful because we lost a game we wanted to win and had a chance to win a trophy. We need to brush that off and prepare for an important season."

Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.

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