Coronavirus-hit Chelsea were only able to name four outfield players on the bench for Sunday’s match against Wolves after the Premier League rejected their request to postpone the game.
Thomas Tuchel has had to juggle his resources in recent weeks due to injuries and illness and is without Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi for the 1400 GMT kick-off after they all tested positive for Covid-19.
Jorginho, Kai Havertz and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were not on the Blues’ bus on arrival at Molineux.
Andreas Christensen was not in the match squad either, with goalkeepers Kepa Arrizabalaga and Marcus Bettinelli both taking a seat on the depleted bench.
Mateo Kovacic was fit enough to be named as a substitute after completing Covid isolation but he has only just shaken off a hamstring problem.
Ben Chilwell has been isolating due to a positive test, but was already sidelined with knee trouble.
Tuchel made two changes from Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Everton, with Trevoh Chalobah and N’Golo Kante starting in defensive midfield.
Chelsea earlier confirmed that their request to call off the game had been turned down.
“We are deeply disappointed that our application was rejected as we felt we had a strong case for postponement of today’s match on the grounds of players’ health and safety,” said a Chelsea spokesman.
The European champions’ request is understood to have been rejected because the Blues were deemed to have had enough players to fulfil the fixture according to Premier League regulations.
“We applied to not play and put the situation under control and it was rejected. It is very hard to understand it, we are very concerned about the health of the players,” Tuchel told Sky Sports.
“We end up with players who play coming from injuries and we take the risk.”
“I am worried from a medical point of view, we have had four days of consecutive positive tests. How will it stop if we are in a bus together and in meetings together if we pretend it is not happening?”
“We are disappointed, we are a bit angry.”
Five of Saturday’s six Premier League fixtures were postponed, with Everton’s clash with Leicester on Sunday also called off.
Two other games are still listed for Sunday — Manchester City’s clash with Newcastle and Tottenham v Liverpool.
Premier League clubs are due to meet on Monday to discuss what action to take over the growing Covid crisis, with a busy schedule of matches over the Christmas and New Year period.
Britain announced record case numbers for three days in a row last week, prompting the introduction of new regulations.
Authorities announced 90,418 cases on Saturday, a slight fall on Friday, although weekend numbers are usually a little lower.