Roberto Di Matteo is gambling with his future by playing Eden Hazard in a lone striking role in tonight’s crucial Champions League clash with Juventus.
Fernando Torres has been axed after his shocking performance against West Bromwich on Saturday and will be on the substitutes’ bench in the Juventus Arena.
Hazard, who usually operates either side of the main striker, has been asked to fill the centre forward role against Juve’s 3-5-2 formation.
The Belgum forward, who scored in the 2-1 defeat at the Hawthorns on Saturday, has been one of Chelsea’s most influential players this season.
Hazard has scored three times and has six assists since his £32m move from Lille in the summer.
Torres was dragged off after 62 minutes at the Hawthorns and Di Matteo had warned him he faced the chop for the trip to Juve.
Torres has scored just once in the Champions League this season, a fluke against Shakhtar Donetsk that rebounded off him and beyond Andriy Pyatov at Stamford Bridge.
His shocking form in front of goal has forced the issue and Di Matteo has made massive changes as he fights to save his job.
Torres has scored just 18 goals in 85 appearances for Chelsea since his £50m move from Liverpool in January 2011.
Sportsmail exclusively revealed last week how Blues owner Roman Abramovich has accepted his £50million gamble on the Spain international has failed and was ready to move the striker out of Stamford Bridge.
And Torres has his heart set on a return to Spain as he looks to recapture the form that made him one of the most feared strikers in the world.
The idea of having the Chelsea failure on his CV certainly irks the ex-Liverpool striker, but he has privately accepted he must leave west London, with Spain his preferred destination.
Potentially, Torres could return to Atletico Madrid as part of Chelsea's move to sign Radamel Falcao.
Di Matteo admitted any manager would love to have Falcao in his team as Chelsea step up their interest in the Atletico striker.
Manchester City and Real Madrid are also interested in the 26-year-old, who scored a stunning hat-trick against Chelsea in the European Super Cup.
On Friday, Di Matteo said: 'Falcao is one of the best strikers, probably, in European and world football. His ratio of goals per game is quite impressive not just this season but over the last three years, at Porto and Atletico Madrid. If you ask any manager, he'd have him in his team.
'I know the window's nearing and there'll be a lot of speculation for our club, but whatever we do we'll keep it behind closed doors.'
Atletico’s prized asset is impressed by the Blues' ambition, saying: ‘Chelsea are champions of Europe and there is not much more to say than that. Even after winning the Champions League they still go and sign players of the highest quality. Their ambition is clear.
‘I would not be worried about the physical aspect of the Premier League. I have scored goals in Argentina, Portugal and now Spain. I am confident I can adapt my game to any league. I would welcome the challenge of the Premier League.
'I was also a big fan of Gianfranco Zola when I was growing up. I have watched the Premier League for a long time. There is so much quality and it is such an exciting league. Of course it is nice to think I might play in it.’
Financial difficulties mean Atletico will almost definitely have to cash in on the 26-year-old, if not in January then the end of the season. There is a £48m release clause in Falcao’s contract.
Chelsea will wait until the summer if necessary — such is the player’s loyalty to Atletico he would first like to help them secure Champions League football — but Abramovich’s desire to see him at Stamford Bridge is sure to spell the end for the misfiring Torres.
Meanwhile, Di Matteo, who is in danger of being sacked by Chelsea, is standing by David Luiz and Gary Cahill at centre half.
Luiz has been wobbling in recent weeks, but he keeps his place for a match Di Matteo cannot afford to lose.
Cesar Azpilicueta will be asked to play in a role just in front of right back Branislav Ivanovic in the crunch clash in Turin.
Di Matteo is under massive pressure to keep Chelsea in the Champions League, but is in danger of losing his job just six months after winning the competition.
Ashley Cole, who has not played for Chelsea since the defeat against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge last month, is expected to return at left-back.
Di Matteo’s team trained at the Juventus Stadium last night but were kept guessing about the team until today.
The Chelsea chief kept his cards close to his chest and the players had no idea who was playing until today.
Hazard, who is seen as one of the manager’s personal favourites, has been preferred to Torres in a defensive line-up.
If they lose against the Serie A leaders tonight Chelsea will be in danger of becoming the first holders in Champions League history to go out in the group stages.