Chelsea travel to Switzerland for the first leg of the Europa League semi-final with Basle with neither John Terry nor Frank Lampard guaranteed places in the starting line-up.
The pair were unused substitutes in Chelsea's recent FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester City and look set to remain on the bench in Basle. It was far from an isolated incident, as Terry also had to make do with a watching brief in the draw at Liverpool, with Lampard only brought on in the final minute of the match.
Go back just a couple of years and the prospect of any Chelsea manager choosing to leave out either man in a crucial game would have been unthinkable, let alone both. The quintet of Petr Cech, Ashely Cole and Didier Drogba - in addition to Terry and Lampard - were the first names on the team-sheet and the absence of any of them was considered a huge blow to the Blues chances. Managers came and went with regularity but the spine of Chelsea's team remained.
That was until last season when new boss Andre Villas-Boas was brought in with the objective of getting the side playing the exciting, attacking football that owner Roman Abramovich had always craved, despite so much success. The second challenge was to introduce fresh, new talent to an ageing group - a squad filled with fans' favourites and club legends, who would need to be eased out.
A good start to the 2011/12 campaign was soon forgotten as results started to deteriorate and the Stamford Bridge faithful voiced their displeasure at seeing the likes of Lampard and Drogba sat on the substitutes bench. Villas-Boas was removed - Roberto di Matteo came in and the old guard were restored. League form remained inconsistent but that was all forgotten with their successes in the FA Cup and Champions League. The problem was that the squad was a year older and the style of play had been almost the polar opposite of the free-flowing football desired by their Russian owner.
When Rafa Benitez replaced di Matteo in November, Drogba had departed but the Stamford Bridge outfit's other four stalwarts remained and were still commanding places in the starting line-up.
The Spaniard has never been one to shy away from making tough decisions he deems necessary for fear of upsetting anyone and, as such, it was no surprise to see him make changes that were unpopular with the fans.
An injury to Terry upon Benitez's arrival helped keep the Chelsea captain's demotion to squad player off the radar for a while but the same cannot be said of Lampard's transition. Chelsea's decision not to offer the England midfielder a new contract once his current deal expires in the summer has ensured that the former West Ham man has been in the headlines throughout the season and Benitez's use, or lack thereof, of Chelsea's No. 8 has only added to them, increasing the fury aimed at him by supporters of the west London club.
Having already been moved into a slightly deeper position, Lampard cannot provide the same goal threat as he once did, with penalties accounting for an ever-increasing percentage of his tally, 33% in the league this term. He is unlikely to force his way past the Blues trio of Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard further forward and must consequently battle for a deeper role in the starting XI with John Obi Mikel and Ramires. The problem for Lampard is that he does not offer the same energy both Mikel and Ramires need to effectively protect the Chelsea back line, which is seen as a necessity in the modern game.
Meanwhile, Terry's comeback from injury in the past couple of months has been relatively low-key, and given some of his displays perhaps that has been for the best for the former England skipper. The 32-year-old has looked shaky at times, he has conceded two penalties since his return for a start, and his lack of pace has caused the Chelsea defence more problems than in previous years when his reading of the game made up for it. The simple fact is that Chelsea look far more secure defensively with the pairing of David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic than they do with either of them partnered by Terry. On average Chelsea do concede slightly fewer games per game with Terry in the side. However, the fact he has played twice, and only completed 90 minutes once, against top half sides this season arguably skews the statistics in his favour.
No one can question the impact both Lampard and Terry have had at Stamford Bridge and how important they have been in the period of unequalled success in the club's history. However, they can no longer be seen as the main men for Chelsea.That baton has been passed on to the likes of Mata and Luiz who join Cech and Cole as the key figures whilst Terry and Lampard must accept that when it comes to the big games their influence will, at best, have to come from the bench. Something that Chelsea fans must come to terms with in the coming months.