David Luiz reportedly faces another month on the sidelines as he deals with knee and ankle injuries, and by the time he returns, "Chelsea's season could be effectively over."
According to Simon Johnson of the Evening Standard, a setback in the Brazilian's recovery will keep him out of action for around a month, with the defender having already been limited to just 17 appearances this season.
Blues boss Antonio Conte discussed Luiz's knee problem earlier in the campaign, per ESPN FC's Liam Twomey:
That injury originated from a heavy challenge put in on Luiz by Manchester City's Sergio Aguero in December 2016, and the Chelsea star has had to be treated by a specialist in Barcelona on multiple occasions this season.
His setback will keep him out for the Blues' UEFA Champions League round-of-16 second leg with Barcelona and the FA Cup quarter-final with Leicester City, so their hopes of silverware could be over before he makes his return.
As Johnson further noted, Chelsea are also five points off the top four, but Luiz may not be able to offer much help with the run-in, as he'll be lacking in match fitness after he returns to action.
Even if the 30-year-old had been fit this season, he has been ousted from the starting lineup by Andreas Christensen, who has successfully returned from a two-year loan spell at Borussia Monchengladbach to secure a place in the side.
As football writer Garry Hayes noted, he earned his spot with some strong performances:
The 21-year-old has struggled of late, though, with some errors proving costly in recent matches. Football journalist Dan Levene nevertheless believes he'll become a fine player:
Now would be the ideal time to give the youngster some time away from the spotlight, but Luiz's absence limits the options available to Conte.
Gary Cahill, who is no longer a guaranteed starter at Stamford Bridge thanks to Christensen's form and his own struggles, is the only other senior alternative.
Luiz is hardly infallible himself, but he'd have been a useful option in the coming weeks, and Conte will have to do without during a difficult period.
The player's struggles may also hinder his chances of featuring for Brazil at the World Cup this summer. Even if he's able to return to fitness in time, his lack of minutes on the pitch this season could prove costly.