Andre Villas-Boas has confirmed there is a "big possibility" Gary Cahill will finally make his Chelsea debut against Manchester United, with the Blues having confirmed the game will go ahead despite weather concerns.
Cahill has not made an appearance since starting for Bolton in their 2-1 victory over Everton on January 4, with Villas-Boas even leaving him on the bench when John Terry was ruled out of Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Swansea.
"I think he has been ready from the start, to be fair," he said. "He's trained magnificently well."
Joining Terry on the sidelines is left-back Ashley Cole, who is suspended after his dismissal at Swansea. "It's a blow more in the sense of those two not being there to link together," Villas-Boas said.
Chelsea are also still without Didier Drogba, whose brace on Saturday helped Ivory Coast into the semi-finals of the African Nations Cup and will thereby prolong his absence.
That leaves Villas-Boas to persist with Fernando Torres, with the Spain striker still unable to produce consistently for the Blues.
"Off the field, mentally, he is ready," Villas-Boas said. "He knows his responsibility; he knows what he has to do. On the field and on the training ground, we try and work on his movement. That's the only thing we can do and we have been for quite some time.
"I think eventually we could say that a goal will trigger it all but we have to wait and see because there needs to be continuity after that."
The absence of key players is exacerbated by the fact Sunday's match comes against a team Villas-Boas considers the best in the country.
"I think they will be the ones to beat," he said. "This distance to Man City is equal to nothing and, for me, they will be the main favourites."
Chelsea currently sit fourth in the table but, with Arsenal, Newcastle and Liverpool all close behind, fears remain that the club could miss out on Champions League football next season. Reports on Sunday morning suggest the club's hierarchy would be forced to axe the manager should that be the case, but Villas-Boas is confident of qualification.
"There is special negativity when you don't reach your objectives but you have to bear in mind we are still playing for silverware in two big competitions," he said. "We are in a period of change but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be successful now.
"At the moment we believe in next year's project but we still believe we can do something this year. I don't think we'll finish below the fourth spot but I have told the players it is unrealistic to think about the title."
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