Jose Mourinho admits Chelsea have no margin for error as the pressure mounts on the beleaguered Blues boss ahead of Wednesday’s crucial Champions League clash against Dynamo Kiev.
Mourinho faces one of the most significant moments in his long and illustrious career when Kiev visit Stamford Bridge for a match he cannot afford to lose.
The 52-year-old is hanging onto his job by a slender thread after a turbulent season took another turn for the worse with a 3-1 home defeat against Liverpool on Saturday.
That lacklustre loss left Chelsea languishing in 15th place in the English top-flight, with their six defeats from 11 games the worst start by defending champions in the Premier League era.
Chelsea’s malaise hasn’t been restricted to domestic competitions and their Champions League campaign is also in the balance after just one win from their three Group G matches leaves them in third place behind Kiev and leaders Porto.
Another setback against the Ukrainian champions would put Chelsea in severe danger of crashing out before the knockout stages and further increase the belief that Mourinho will be axed in the coming days.
Acknowledging the significance of the occasion, Mourinho, who received further bad news on Monday when he was handed a one-game stadium ban for this weekend’s trip to Stoke, said: “It’s a big game. It’s a game that we cannot lose.
“We still can finish first, second or third and obviously we want to finish in the top two.”
Blues owner Roman Abramovich is said to remain sympathetic to Mourinho’s problems, but the Russian billionaire has rarely been able to stop himself from wielding the axe when managers have failed to deliver in the past.
Mourinho’s chances of surviving are hardly helped by repeated reports of a dressing room mutiny by players unhappy with his stern man-management style.
So it couldn’t have been reassuring for Abramovich that a BBC reporter this week claimed one unnamed first-team star has said he would rather lose than win while playing under the Portuguese coach.
– Under seige –
Adding to the sense that Mourinho is a man under seige, on Monday he discovered he will be the subject of individual legal action from former Chelsea team doctor Eva Carneiro, who was removed from first-team duties after the manager criticised her for treating the injured Eden Hazard late in a draw with Swansea.
The 0-0 draw in Kiev in Chelsea’s last European fixture suggests the Ukrainians won’t necessarily provide the kind of tame opposition Mourinho could do with facing, especially with the Blues no longer such an imposing force at home.
Mourinho lost one of his first 99 Premier League home games, but Chelsea’s woes have erased the fear factor for visiting teams, with three Premier League clubs having taken maximum points on their visits to the Bridge already this season.
Restoring Chelsea’s sense of invincibility on home turf is one of the most important tasks facing Mourinho.
But he has cut an increasingly forlorn figure on the touchline during Chelsea’s run of one win from their last eight games and concern was etched on his face when he held an impromptu meeting with his coaching staff on the pitch minutes after the final whistle signalled their latest loss on Saturday.
Yet, despite a traumatic week in which the west Londoners lost to West Ham and Liverpool and were knocked out of the League Cup by Stoke, Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel insists Mourinho retains his team’s support.
“We are right behind the manager. There’s no doubt about it. If anyone can turn this around, we definitely think he’s the one,” Mikel said.
“We are giving 100 percent, we are playing for the manager, we are right behind him.
“He is doing everything that needs to be done. It’s just that right now things aren’t going well, so everyone (outside the club) wants him to go.
“I don’t think it’s the right way to go. He knows what’s wrong and it’s just a matter of time before results start coming.”