Changing of the old guard at Chelsea - Mikel gone, Ivanovic going, Terry next?

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The Blues are being revamped under Antonio Conte, who has implemented sweeping changes while leading his team to the top of the Premier League

Antonio Conte has shown his ruthless streak in recent weeks by clearing out Chelsea. He first sold Oscar to Shanghai SIPG for £52 million, and then let John Obi Mikel leave for China. Now it looks like Branislav Ivanovic will leave during the January window. 

Goal understands Ivanovic is set to leave this weekend, ending an eight-and-a-half year stay with the Blues, after offers from Zenit St Petersburg and Premier League sides have come in with only six months left to run on his contract. 

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Ivanovic, along with John Terry, were both fit but left out of Chelsea's matchday squad last week as they went on to win 2-0 against Hull City. Kurt Zouma and the returning Nathan Ake were used as substitutes for their side's settled back line, leaving no room for the veterans.

Chelsea are eight points clear at the top of the table in the Premier League and will likely rest players in their upcoming FA Cup match against Brentford - as they prepare to face Liverpool and then Arsenal in their next two league games. 

Terry will get another chance to start on Saturday with David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta all expected to be rested. Despite the club's captain returning to first team action, his role is increasingly being changed from an integral defender to that of a ceremonial legend figure.

John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic

In his last appearance against Peterborough United, Terry was sent off as he slipped in a challenge with Lee Angol. That moment was mixed with a combination of bad luck, rustiness and poor judgement. It was also a mistake that the Terry of five years ago would never have let happen.  

At 36-years-old, it is only natural to see a slight decline in ability for a player who has made over 700 appearances for his club. He will forever go down as a pioneering club legend. His legacy is assured after he led his club to their first ever Champions League and Europa League successes. 

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Terry is realistic and accepted a lesser role before the season started when he negotiated his contract renewal in the summer. The one-year extension has given him the opportunity to leave on a high note rather than a low one - as Chelsea slipped to a 10th place finish under Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink last season. 

Conte likes to be close to his players, and his experience as a club captain helps him to understand the value that Terry offers him away from the starting XI. The pair chat every day and Terry will always have a role waiting for him in west London when his playing days are done. 

The former England captain wants to continue his career though and, like Ivanovic, he is aware that his levels may have dropped in recent months, but the pair have a love of the game that means they will carry on playing for as long as possible. 

John Terry and Kurt Zouma

Ivanovic and Terry deserve great respect for helping Chelsea ease so quickly into a new era of success under Conte, but the Blues' fans have a right to be excited with the emergence of Ake at the club and the return of Kurt Zouma.

Andreas Christensen is set to return next season and Chelsea's investment in their youth system in previous years is starting to pay off. Terry has been a mentor for all three of his upcoming replacements and as a Chelsea man, through-and-through, he will be excited to see what the new group can achieve. 

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Chelsea's young defenders have a lot to live up to with Terry and Ivanovic setting the standard at the club and being so revered that they have been immortalised on plaques outside the old Shed End wall. 

As Conte looks to youth, he will still have Gary Cahill and David Luiz as the last members of the Champions League winning side of 2012 - they will have to step up as their team-mates depart.

We are witnessing the end draw near for one of the greatest ever defences in English football history, but they leave a legacy that Conte looks capable of building upon.