Roberto Di Matteo is considering the radical move of handing Ryan Bertrand a first Champions League appearance in Saturday's European Cup final against Bayern Munich.
The interim first-team coach is wary of the considerable threat posed by the German club's wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry, but has found his options limited by suspensions to four key players and a hamstring strain sustained by Florent Malouda against Blackburn Rovers last Sunday. The Frenchman returned to training only on Friday night, working closely with Chris Jones, the first-team fitness coach, at the Allianz Arena and will be reassessed at the team hotel on Saturday morning.
The experienced international had been pencilled in to start against Bayern but, if he is not deemed fit enough to start, Di Matteo is now contemplating gambling on granting Bertrand a European debut on the grandest of stages.
He has used Bertrand on the left of a trio of advanced midfielders behind Didier Drogba in training this week in the hope that the 22-year-old, more naturally a left-back, will offer much-needed support for Ashley Cole against Robben and the overlapping Philipp Lahm.
Di Matteo experimented with the tactic at the weekend, replacing the injured Malouda with Paulo Ferreira just before half-time against Blackburn Rovers. The Portuguese filled in at left-back and Bertrand pushed up into the unfamiliar midfield berth. The management staff gained encouragement from that 47-minute display, and from what they have seen in training this week, and his inclusion would be likely to restrict Michael Essien to the bench.
"I've been trying different solutions to cover every eventuality," said Di Matteo, who has drafted the youth team graduates Nathaniel Chalobah and Todd Kane into his squad.
Bertrand's sudden elevation would be all the more surprising given the England Under-21 international was not even included in the club's Champions League squad for the group stage. The left-back, who had signed from Gillingham for an initial £125,000 as a 15-year-old, spent periods since on loan at Bournemouth, Oldham, Norwich, Reading and Nottingham Forest and, with his Chelsea career so interrupted, had not qualified as a "club- trained" homegrown player.
The Londoners had already used up their allocated four "association trained" players with Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Ross Turnull and Daniel Sturridge, leaving Bertrand ineligible. Room was made to accommodate the youngster when the list was re-submitted in February ahead of the knock-out stage – Bertrand, Gary Cahill and Essien replaced Alex, Nicolas Anelka and Hilario in the squad – though the full-back did not even feature on the bench in the subsequent ties against Napoli, Benfica and Barcelona.
Bertrand boasts only seven Premier League appearances this season. But Di Matteo has made bold selections before, not least when he asked Ramires to play on the left of midfield against Barcelona in an attempt to nullify the threat posed by the marauding Daniel Alves down the flank. The tactic was effective at Stamford Bridge, with Ramires also supplying Drogba with the game's only goal.
Di Matteo has experimented with Salomon Kalou and Fernando Torres on the right this week but is expected to start with the Ivorian, who arguably offers José Bosingwa more protection at full-back. That would leave Torres as an option to throw on from the bench at some point.