Rafa Benitez has raised concerns about the long-term fitness of Chelsea captain John Terry after revealing the defender is trapped in "a vicious circle" regarding his persistent knee injury.
Terry travelled with the squad to the Czech Republic for Thursday night's 1-0 win at Sparta Prague in the Europa League, but did not play due to inflammation in his right knee, a consequence of an injury first sustained against Liverpool back in November which ruled him out of action for two months.
The centre-back has made just three appearances since returning to action on January 12, and he missed last Saturday's 4-1 Premier League defeat of Wigan with the problem which also consigned him to a watching brief in Europe in midweek.
Interim manager Benitez said after the last-32 first-leg win in Prague that the stop-start nature of Terry's recovery is both hampering his opportunities to regain match fitness and harming his overall condition.
"He had a setback," Benitez said. "After he was fine again. He had no reaction in the next training session. But we have to manage the situation. He has to train more with the team and then he will have more options to play. It's a vicious circle: If he cannot play, he cannot improve his match fitness but, if he can't train with the team, he can't improve his fitness.
"We have to manage the situation but in the meantime, if [Gary] Cahill and [Branislav] Ivanovic are doing well, we can keep winning games."
Terry, who reportedly told Benitez he was fit to play in Chelsea's first Europa League match since their Champions League title defence ended at the group stage before Christmas, could return for Sunday's FA Cup replay against Brentford at Stamford Bridge.