Marseille have omitted full-back Cesar Azpilicueta from their Europa League squad - fuelling speculation that his much-discussed move to Chelsea is edging closer.
The French side will face FC Sheriff Tiraspol in their opening European game of the season on Thursday night and they will head into the game without the services of their Spanish right-back.
Chelsea chiefs have identified the right side of their defence as an area in need of bolstering, with Branislav Ivanovic showing signs of frailty as he was targeted by newly promoted Reading in the thrilling 4-2 win for the European champions at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.
Azpilicueta is viewed as a long-term answer in that position, with the 22-year-old viewed as the ideal addition to a defensive line that is loaded with experienced and ageing performers, and is expected to cost in the region of €9 million.
The Basque defender had been linked with Athletic Bilbao earlier in the summer, but a move to the San Mames never looked likely.