Gary Cahill admits Chelsea ’s stretched squad are walking a fitness tightrope.
The Blues will have only FOURTEEN experienced players ready for Saturday’s game against Burnley, when Antonio Conte’s champions begin the defence of their Premier League title.
Chelsea rounded off their pre-season on Sunday with a third defeat on the spin, losing a Community Shield penalty shoot-out to Arsenal.
Conte was forced to include teenage midfielder Kyle Scott among his substitutes and the back page of the Community Shield’s programme illustrated the difference between his squad and the Gunners’ one.
Arsenal listed 41 names there, compared to just 24 for Chelsea — who have almost that many players out on loan.
The Blues are working hard to bring in two new full-backs, another midfielder and a centre-back.
Skipper and central defender Cahill said: “The back of the programme was interesting. In terms of quality, we’ve certainly got that but you have to hope we don’t have too many injuries.
“Obviously the [four] new players who have just come, they’re going to be vitally important. There’s no doubt we’ve added quality to the team. But with playing more games due to the Champions League this season, the numbers are going to be tested. We just have to keep everybody fit and sharp.
“As players we are in control of what we do and the way we prepare for the games. The other stuff outside of that [transfers] is none of our business.”
Two years ago, champions Chelsea were also beaten in the Community Shield by FA Cup holders Arsenal before winning just one of their opening six league games. Their then-manager Jose Mourinho ended up being sacked five months later.
But Cahill maintained the current squad are firmly behind Conte — and refusing to panic.
He added: “The mood in the camp is fine.
“The Community Shield is not a setback but I do see it as a disappointment. It is hurtful because we lost a game we wanted to win and had a chance to win a trophy. We need to brush that off and prepare for an important season.”
Record-signing Alvaro Morata missed badly in the shootout in his third appearance since a £65million move from Real Madrid. But Cahill maintained the Spaniard, who began the match on the bench, is still adjusting to life at the West London club and will come good given time.
He went on: “He’s OK. He’s got a lot of friends and team-mates, a lot of Spanish boys in our team at the minute, so it’s easier to settle in.
“He’s been welcomed in, I’m sure he feels part of the group already, and I can imagine it’s different. You’re bringing all your family over, trying to make that transition.
“So, no, there’s no problems with him. He’s a massive player, he’s massively experienced even at that young age.
“We’ll all get together and rally around him and I’m sure he’ll start the season well and bang in goals for us.”