LONDON (AFP) - As Jose Mourinho surveys what's left of his injury-ravaged squad, he could be forgiven for fearing Chelsea's title challenge is in trouble before it has even started.
Losing to Manchester United in Sunday's Community Shield is the least of Mourinho's worries after John Terry, Didier Drogba and Claude Makelele joined an already lengthy injury list.
Michael Ballack and Wayne Bridge are carrying injuries from last term that will keep them out for several weeks, while Andriy Shevchenko, Arjen Robben, Salomon Kalou and Paulo Ferreira have missed chunks of the pre-season.
Drogba and Makelele are far from certain to be available for the Premiership opener against Birmingham on Sunday, while Terry could be out for up to a month after damaging knee ligaments in training on Saturday.
Even some of Mourinho's available players are far from fully fit. Frank Lampard has played through the pain barrier after breaking a toe, while Claudio Pizarro is struggling with a back injury.
It is a litany of bad luck that would have most managers reaching for a stiff drink. Surely it wouldn't get any worse? Yes, it could.
Chelsea were beaten by the champions at Wembley after Edwin van der Sar saved all three of the London team's penalties in the shoot-out that followed a fiesty 1-1 draw.
But Mourinho refuses to feel sorry for himself, insisting he has confidence in his few remaining healthy players.
"I'm not worried about it," he said. "When they are back they are back. I'm ready to go like I was today.
"I will go to the fight with these boys. I think only about these ones. I work with them, I play with them and I trust them, so no problem.
"It was not easy to prepare this game but what makes me happy was Manchester United were almost at maximum power and, if you look at Chelsea, we had more than 50 percent of the team being out, but we competed against them.
"They were not better than us and that gives us confidence for the start of the season."
Mourinho is pinning his hopes on having several of the walking wound back by the end of the international break, which comes after Chelsea's first three matches.
"We have two weeks to play and after that it stops for the national team week," he said. "I have to make decisions about the three matches we have to play against Birmingham, Reading and Liverpool.
"When you have so many out, I hope at least one or two can be back."
Ryan Giggs had given United the lead in the annual meeting between the champions and FA Cup winners, but Florent Malouda cancelled out that fine first half strike.
Then van der Sar stole the spotlight as he saved Pizzaro, Lampard and Shaun Wright-Phillips's spot-kicks to hand United an early psychological advantage over their title rivals.
Sir Alex Ferguson insists United are far from the finished article as he waits to bed in his four close-season signings.
Only Nani was involved at Wembley, but Ferguson could have Owen Hargreaves and Carlos Tevez available for the Reading match on Sunday.
Tevez will officially complete his move from West Ham this week before playing in one of United's two friendlies against Glentoran or Dunfermline on Wednesday.
"We're nowhere near ready yet. The four new players have all got a bit of work to do, so it leaves us with the present squad from last season," Ferguson said. "Gary Neville, Louis Saha and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are still to come back as well, so we are not as strong as we could be.
"Nani has had a couple of appearances in the Far East but he's still well short of 100 percent fitness. Anderson felt his hamstring was a bit tight on Friday night, so there is some work to be done there.
"Owen Hargreaves has only played his first game on Saturday. Tevez trained with us on Friday and Saturday but obviously he's got a bit of work to do."
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