Avram Grant appears to have ruled captain John Terry out of the Carling Cup final even though the England international is back in training.
Terry insists he will be back to full fitness from his fractured foot in the next fortnight and has identified the Carling Cup showdown with Tottenham on February 24 as his target.
But the Chelsea coach, who watched his side stutter to a goalless draw with Liverpool at Stamford Bridge yesterday, thinks the game will arrive too soon for his inspirational leader.
'It is very good news about John Terry,' said Grant. 'He has trained sooner than we thought.
'He trained Friday and Saturday and everybody was happy to see him. He is the leader we need. He will be fit in around three weeks. I think it will be too soon (for the Carling Cup final) but we will see. He wants to do everything to be as fit as soon as possible.'
While Grant was boosted by Terry's return to the training ground, he was less than impressed with his side's failure to overcome a stubborn Liverpool.
But that did not stop Grant dismissing Liverpool's title hopes. The Reds are 16 points behind leaders Arsenal and Grant insists the gap is now too wide for Rafa Benitez's team.
Grant declared: 'I think after this game, it will be very difficult for them to fight for the title. They are too many points from the first team.'
Grant was adamant that referee Mike Riley made a mistake when he failed to award Chelsea a penalty for Javier Mascherano's challenge on Joe Cole in the first half.
But Michael Ballack's glaring miss 10 minutes from time also played a part in Chelsea's inability to end the stalemate.
Grant added: 'We are not happy. We want to win every game but especially at home. If we don't win we are disappointed.
'We were better in the second half but we missed a big chance at the end. It was a penalty when I saw it at the time and now I've seen it on TV, it was a 100% penalty.
'He is a good referee but he has made a mistake. It has happened. For us it is not the first or second time this season, so we are used to it but he is a good referee.'
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez insists a top-four place is still not beyond them.
England striker Peter Crouch was guilty of failing to punish Chelsea with three headers in the first-half, and Benitez said: 'We had some chances in the first half and defended well in the second half. We also had some half-chances. It could have been three points, but it is not easy against Chelsea.
'In the first half we created some clear chances but they were pushing forward in the second half.
'Crouch had some good chances but the team showed character and the commitment of every player was very positive.
'In terms of the position in the table we have to keep working hard and playing as we did today. Every game is important for us. We want to finish in the top four.'