• José Mourinho considers alternatives for full-back
• Chelsea avoid changes for Sunderland match
Ashley Cole fears that he may not start the first leg of Chelsea's Champions League semi-final at Atlético Madrid, as José Mourinho explores his options to replace the suspended Branislav Ivanovic.
The Serb picked up his third booking of the competition in the rousing 2-0 quarter-final success over Paris Saint-Germain and will serve his one-match ban for the game at the Vicente Calderón stadium. His absence would normally prompt César Azpilicueta to swap to his natural right-back berth, with Cole restored at left-back. Yet the veteran has played only 12 minutes since injuring his knee in training after England's friendly success over Denmark in the first week in March, with his inclusion now far from guaranteed.
Indeed, the 33-year-old has managed only 57 minutes of first-team football since January for club and country, enduring life on the periphery as his contract ticks down to its conclusion on 30 June. The semi-final against Atlético would offer Cole an opportunity to remind the management of his qualities – albeit Azpilicueta has been outstanding at left-back since last November – and strengthen his hopes of being retained in Roy Hodgson's England squad for the summer's World Cup finals. Yet he is unsure still whether he will be called upon to start in Spain, with Mourinho considering utilising David Luiz at right-back, and Cole's non-selection would offer an indication that his future lies elsewhere.
Chelsea host Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on Saturday hoping to return to the top of the Premier League, albeit potentially temporarily, with the assistant first-team coach, Steve Holland, suggesting they will avoid wholesale changes to their lineup with Tuesday's game in Spain in mind. That would most likely see Azpilicueta retained at left-back, with Ivanovic, Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah – all of whom are ineligible next week – expected to start.
Eden Hazard will be absent as he continues his rehabilitation from the calf injury sustained against PSG at Stamford Bridge, with the onus on the Belgian to play some part in full training on Monday morning if he is feature against Atlético. Hazard has been training apart from the main group as he recovers from the strain. "Normal procedure would be not to ask a player to play in a game if he hasn't done any training prior to that match," said Holland. "He has to train with the group in the next couple of days [to feature in Madrid].
"The injury is very low on the calf, almost at the back of his Achilles, and it's quite deep. It's an unusual calf injury. The consideration is what's best for the individual. If he's not going to be available for Tuesday, if we can give him a better chance to be involved on Sunday at Liverpool and for the return leg against Atlético the following week, we'll take that tack."