Didier Drogba's future at Chelsea is reported to hinge on whether he is dropped for Tuesday's clash with Manchester United, although club insiders are confident that he will not leave in the summer as they ease him back to action.
Drogba has been nursing a sore knee as well as the after-effects of malaria and has been dropped for two games - FC Copenhagen and Fulham - since the arrival of £50 million man Fernando Torres in January.
However, speculation that Drogba would leave in a swap deal for Real Madrid's Kaka was described as 'fantasy football' by coach Carlo Ancelotti and the Ivorian is still believed to be central to Chelsea's plans for the future.
''I doubt very much that Didier Drogba wants to leave Chelsea; he is being rested rather than dropped at the moment,'' a source close to the club told ESPNsoccernet on Sunday. "Chelsea need Didier Drogba back to his best for their run in the Champions League, but he also needs careful handling. Clearly Chelsea need to finish in the top four of the Premier League, so they have to rotate their strikers to keep them fresh.
"Drogba has had malaria, he has had a sore knee and a couple of weeks of rest, easing himself back, makes sense. However, it is true that he won't like being on the bench, even if it might be for his own good.''
Chelsea have three strikers competing to fit into coach Carlo Ancelotti's lineup, but the source added that of the three strikers - Torres, Drogba, and Nicolas Anelka - the player most likely to be sacrificed in the summer is Anelka.
"Ask any Chelsea fan who is the best striker at the club and they will tell you Didier,'' he said. ''Anelka has talent to burn, but the worry is how often he is willing to burn it!"