CHELSEA have been handed a fillip following their first defeat in five games, with captain John Terry set to return to the side for tomorrow’s pivotal London derby against Tottenham.
Terry missed Wednesday’s 2-1 loss at Manchester City with a calf problem but successfully came through a training session yesterday and looks poised to be recalled against faltering Spurs.
The fixture has huge implications for Chelsea’s hopes of salvaging Champions League qualification from a season of extreme turbulence on and off the field, even by their singular standards.
Defeat would leave the Blues eight points behind Tottenham with just eight Premier League games remaining – a huge gap to make up while still juggling European and FA Cup commitments.
It would also drain further belief from a team that had looked revitalised since the sacking of manager Andre Villas-Boas and the appointment of Roberto di Matteo as caretaker boss – until the City match.
Victory, however, would slash fourth-placed Tottenham’s advantage to just two points and, in inflicting a fourth defeat in five matches, deliver a colossal blow to the north Londoners’ wavering spirits.
Spurs have already seen a 13-point lead over arch-rivals Arsenal chipped away since January, with Wednesday’s results seeing the Gunners overtake Harry Redknapp’s men for the first time this season.
Redknapp remains confident of re-establishing his team’s advantage over Arsene Wenger’s in-form outfit, but defeat at Stamford Bridge would nudge them closer to being usurped by another capital foe.
While Terry appears likely to return and reclaim the armband, fellow defender Branislav Ivanovic remains a slight doubt with a thigh injury suffered in the defeat at City.
Tottenham, meanwhile, have agreed to play David Beckham’s LA Galaxy and Thierry Henry’s New York Red Bulls during a pre-season tour to the United States in July.