Antonio Conte has confirmed that John Terry has not recovered from his ankle injury and will miss the match against Arsenal on Saturday.
Chelsea will travel to the Emirates Stadium looking to make-up for the defeat against Liverpool in their last Premier League fixture.
Terry has also been crucial in Chelsea being undefeated against Arsenal in their past nine league meetings and key to the Blues not conceding during the last six of matches.
“John is working but he didn’t recover for the game against Arsenal,” Conte said.
“In this case it is important (to listen to) what the player feels and the pain he is in. We have three central defenders and it is normal to make a choice.
“It is a big game between two big rivals and it is important to play a good game. We know we face a good team.”
“He’s working, working, but he hasn’t recovered for the game against Arsenal. I don’t know (when he will be back). In this case it’s important what the player feels, the pain he feels.
“It’s normal (that Terry wants to play). In the team and the squad we have three central defenders. It’s normal to make a choice. It’s normal when you are in a team like Chelsea to have this problem, but I don’t see any problem in this situation.
“This is a big game between two big rivals. It’s important to play a good game. Above all after our defeat against Liverpool. But we know that we’ll face a team, a good team, a big rival.
“I’m sure that Arsenal will fight until the end to win the title because they’re a very good team, (with) young players, great technique, good players with good physical potential and organisation.
“When there are these types of games, they’re very tough. It’s not necessary to push any player. These big games give great emotion and great expectation. For this reason the players are already motivated.
“(Chelsea) can improve a lot. It’s normal that, when you start work with a new team, and you bring a new idea or method of football, you need a bit of time. But I’m confident about this. We trust in the work. I know that we can improve a lot.”
Gary Cahill and David Luiz are now expected to start at centre-back, although Conte has a decision to make on whether to recall Branislav Ivanovic or stick with Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta at full-back following the midweek victory at Leicester in the League Cup.
“When we concede a goal, all the team concede a goal, not only the defenders,” Conte added.
“It means we must work together to improve the defensive situation. This problem was already there last season because Chelsea conceded 55 goals.
“We must work a lot on this aspect because if you want to think for a great championship you mustn’t concede so many goals.”
The manager, however, refused to say he would be retained against his former team, and also revealed he expects Kurt Zouma to return to training next week as he recovers from injuring his anterior cruciate ligaments.
“For Cesc, it’s a special game for him,” he said. “But the most important thing is that, now, he’s a Chelsea player and playing very well for Chelsea.
“I’m seeing him very focused, very concentrated, during the training sessions. He played a good game in the cup. It can be the possibility that he can start but I have another day to make a decision.
“For Zouma, I hope to see him in the training sessions next week. He’s in good shape and I hope to see him next week in training, to start counting on him.
“Possibly (he will return after the international break). Possibly. Probably. We will wait one week more.”