Jose Mourinho insists he is not trying to send a message to Ashley Cole by leaving him on the bench.
Cole is set to be omitted from Chelsea’s starting XI for the third successive match this evening when the Blues travel to London rivals West Ham.
Right-back Cesar Azpilicueta stood in for Cole in his side’s victory over Schalke and draw with West Brom, following the surprise defeat to Newcastle at the beginning of the month.
Cole, who has had his form called into question this season, has been suffering from a rib injury in recent weeks, but was fit to return for England against Germany on Tuesday.
However, while Azpilicueta is expected to continue in the left-back role today, Mourinho insists Cole’s omission has nothing to do with his performances so far this term.
‘I don’t have a dilemma, I play Azpilicueta because he is stronger at this moment and he is physically at the top of his game,’ said the Blues boss.
‘Ashley is not injured, he feels a pain. He hasn’t a broken rib anymore, he is in condition to play football but he has a little bit of pain and it is a limitation.
‘Can he sprint 100 per cent? Maybe not. Can he jump 100 per? Maybe not, but he is not injured, he is in the minimum condition to play.
And the Portuguese also believes he wouldn’t need to punish Cole by dropping him to the bench should his performances ever be below-par.
‘He just needs time to recover 100 per cent to put himself at the top of his game so he can fight to have his position back.