Match with Kiev is one Chelsea 'cannot lose' - Mourinho
JOSE MOURINHO was on Sunday preparing as normal for Chelsea's next match, with everyone wondering whether owner Roman Abramovich will stick or twist.
Wednesday's Champions League clash with Dynamo Kiev and this Saturday's Premier League game at Stoke have additional significance after Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool inflicted another defeat on Mourinho's beleaguered side, winning 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The 52-year-old Portuguese was subject of the first managerial vote of confidence in Abramovich's 12-year ownership on October 5, in the wake of a home loss to Southampton. The caveat was that results had to improve, but Chelsea have won one of their five games since.
Abramovich has wielded the managerial axe with regularity when a place in the Premier League's top four and qualification for the Champions League has been in danger. Chelsea are 15th after six losses in the opening 11 games - 10 points behind fourth-placed Manchester United - and the question is whether Abramovich will show patience with Mourinho, the most successful manager in the club's history.
It is understood the Chelsea board's position is unchanged since the statement four weeks ago, with Abramovich prepared to give Mourinho time to climb out of the current predicament. Since the Saints defeat on October 3, the Blues' Capital One Cup defence has come to an end and there have been few signs of encouragement, with officials once again blamed after the Liverpool loss, masking Chelsea's failings.
"It's a big game. It's a game that we cannot lose," Mourinho said of the Dynamo contest.
The Portuguese, who is in his second spell and signed a four-year contract extension until June 2019 on the eve of the season, may not just have been referring to Chelsea's prospects of progressing to the knockout stages, but also to his own position. The 2012 European champions are behind Porto and Dynamo in Group G and need a win to kick-start their Champions League campaign.
"We still can finish first, second or third and, obviously, we want to finish in the top two," added Mourinho, who has often derided the Europa League, a tournament Chelsea would parachute into if they finished third in a group which also contains Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
The last time Chelsea were in the Europa League in 2013, they won under an interim boss, Rafael Benitez. The Spaniard succeeded European Cup-winning boss Roberto di Matteo the prior November.
Chelsea were ahead against Liverpool through Ramires' fourth minute header, but Philippe Coutinho equalised on the stroke of half-time, beyond the additional two minutes which had been announced, to irk Mourinho. He was then furious Lucas avoided a second yellow card for a challenge on Ramires when the score was 1-1, as referee Mark Clattenburg gave the Liverpool midfielder the benefit of the doubt, something Nemanja Matic was not afforded at West Ham, leading to Mourinho's dismissal the previous week.
Mourinho's sending off at Upton Park is the subject of one of two separate disciplinary proceedings with the English Football Association. He is expected to hear the result of his appeal against a £50,000 fine and suspended one-match stadium ban for comments made about referee Robert Madley in the aftermath of the Southampton defeat soon, possibly as soon as Monday.
Refereeing decisions are not the sole cause of Chelsea's capitulation from champions in May to perilously close to the relegation zone less than six months later. Fortress Stamford Bridge has crumbled and it remains to be seen if the king will be toppled, but it is clear visiting teams no longer fear playing at Chelsea.
Mourinho lost one of his first 99 Premier League home games as boss over two spells, but recent statistics make for grim reading. Liverpool inflicted a third home defeat in the league this season, emulating Crystal Palace and Southampton, for that record to now stand at four losses in 104 games. The most recent home win, over free-falling Aston Villa, was Chelsea's solitary success in their last eight matches.
One more defeat in the league would mean a record number of losses for Mourinho's Chelsea. But only one man really knows if one more loss, to Dynamo or at Stoke, could spell the end anyway.
It is all down to Abramovich. The Russian missed the Liverpool game and hearing Chelsea's supporters singing their support for Mourinho, but he will be all too aware of the result.