Antonio Conte has revealed he will be without two of his senior players as Chelsea gear up to face Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea captain John Terry faces a short on the spell on the sidelines, while John Obi Mikel is also out of action.
Terry, 36 next month, has made one substitute appearance since Chelsea began a six-match winning run in the Premier League, scoring 17 goals without reply.
His only start since returning from an ankle injury was in the EFL Cup loss at West Ham in October.
“For tomorrow I don’t have available John Terry and (John) Obi Mikel,” Conte said.
“John has a muscular problem and Obi is recovering from a muscular problem.”
While Mikel is expected to return to training next week, Terry faces an absence of “two, three weeks, maybe”, Conte says, with a gluteus (buttocks) problem.
Given his lack of game time, Terry featured for Chelsea’s development squad in Monday afternoon’s 3-2 win over Southampton.
“I’m not sure if the injury was in the under-23 game or the day after,” Conte said.
Terry played 70 minutes of the game, which also saw Kurt Zouma, Cesc Fabregas, Marco van Ginkel and Michy Batshuayi feature.
That shows the strength in depth at Chelsea, who lead the Premier League standings entering this weekend’s fixtures.
The Blues finished 10th in their woeful title defence last season but had a say in the championship by drawing 2-2 with Tottenham in May.
The bad-tempered clash saw Spurs concede a two-goal lead, extending their 26-year wait for a win over the Blues at Stamford Bridge, and handed Leicester the Premier League title.
There were 12 yellow cards – nine for Spurs – and both clubs were fined by the Football Association for failure to control their players.
And Spurs midfielder Mousa Dembele was retrospectively banned for six matches, missing the start of this season, for an apparent eye gouge on Chelsea striker Diego Costa.
Conte told Chelsea to channel their emotions in Saturday’s London derby, just as he does as an animated presence in the technical area.
“Now it’s important to think in the present,” Conte said.
“Our behaviour, our attitude, must always be perfect and to think only about the game.
“It’s right to put your passion, but in the right way, not in a bad way.
“It’s important to be always in the right way and to respect your players, the opponents’ players, your fans and the other fans.
“They’ve improved compared to last season with their squad. For this reason, we have to pay great attention.
“(It is) a tricky game. For this reason I’m pushing my players to be focused. I think they are ready.”
Tottenham, under Mauricio Pochettino, can be title challengers again this season, according to Conte.
“Tottenham can create difficulties for every team in this league,” Conte added.
“For me, it’s a very strong team who can fight until the end to win the title.”
One player who has benefited from Conte’s arrival more than most is Victor Moses, who has come in from obscurity and repeated loans under Jose Mourinho to thrive as a right wing-back in the Italian’s 3-4-3 formation.
The Nigeria international is rumoured to have been scouted by Barcelona this season, but Conte told him to focus on the here and now.
“About Victor, I repeat, it’s important to be focused on the present,” Conte said.
“Now we are doing very well. But, for me, I don’t want to think that my players see ‘so long’ (into the future).
“We have just started in this league and, after a period, after two bad defeats, we won six games in a row. This is important, now, to continue this.
“To be focused, to work for the present. Not to look at the future.”
Mikel has also been linked with a move away in January after 10 years with the Blues. The midfielder has not featured this season.
Conte said: “I don’t know what will happen in January.”