Rafa Benitez has been talking with the media ahead of our FA Cup tie with Middlesbrough, and he has ruled out a pair of defenders due to various injury/ailment. Both Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta will be unavailable for the tie, according to Benitez:
Benitez reports that Gary Cahill has a virus and Cesar Azpilicueta has discomfort in his leg. They can't play against Middlesbrough. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@chelseafc) February 26, 2013
This should make 3/4 of the Chelsea back line pretty easy to predict ahead of the fixture, as Branislav Ivanovic will almost certainly start on the right leaving only David Luiz and John Terry for selection in the center of the defense. That will also take Luiz out of consideration for a spot in the midfield, meaning we'll be looking at two of Ramires, John Obi Mikel, and Frank Lampard in the pivot.
Frankly, I'm beginning to wonder if all of these little injuries and illnesses that have plagued the squad since Rafa took over are just a convenient way for him to justify his asinine rotation policy. I can't ever recall a time in Chelsea's past when so many different players suffered from minor ailments which set them back for a single game, only to be followed by a different player at the same position being "banged up" or "sick" for the following fixture.
One thing these two being unavailable should not imp[act is the ability to rest Juan Mata. The little guy has been playing far too many minutes of late, and he's been in major need of a game off for the last few weeks. Odds are he won't get one against Boro though, as Rafa seems intent on running him into the ground regardless of him being clearly over-worked.