Ronald Koeman conceded that today's trip to Stamford Bridge to face a very strong Chelsea side was asking too much of his depleted squad, one which is still short of a striker in his view.
The Blues came off a gruelling 1-1 draw at Manchester City on Monday and Thursday's trip to Croatia looking jaded and uninspired in their 2-0 defeat to the Champions but he said he was proud nevertheless of the way his players kept going despite a poor first half.
“Maybe it was just the one game [too many this week]. The quality of the opposition today also made it really tough,” the Dutchman explained.
“But I'm still disappointed about our first half. I knew we would get problems in the last 20 minutes but I'm proud of what the team and the players did until the last second of the game to fight for the best result today.
“In the first half we made it easy for Chelsea. We had a lot of mistakes in our ball possession, like for the second goal, and they were more aggressibe with better quality on thew ball and that was the difference in the first half.
“The game plan was like at City — to be compact, closing the gaps — but it was more difficult. I think we had too many spaces in the centre of the pitch between the two midfield players and the centre-backs… good movement from Pedro, Willian and Fabregas in the midfield and it was too much.
“Chelsea was the better team but we were a little bit unlucky. We missed six or seven players. With everybody available, it's a lot easier to handle this week.
“Several times I have mentioned that we need a striker to bring in because Sandro needs to adapt to the Premier League and Dominic (Calvert-Lewin) is only 20, 21 years old.
“I'm really happy about his development as a striker but you can't do it [that way] for the whole season. In a tough season you need one more striker.”