Jose Mourinho faces a decisive moment in his fight to save his job as the beleaguered Chelsea manager bids to avoid exit from the Uefa Champions League against Porto on Wednesday night.
Pressure is mounting on the Portuguese Mourinho following Saturday’s stunning 1-0 home defeat against lowly Bournemouth left the struggling Premier League champions languishing just two points above the relegation zone.
Mourinho was given a public vote of confidence by Chelsea at the start of October, but owner Roman Abramovich’s patience is surely being tested as the club’s worst start to a season in his 12-year ownership is showing no signs of improving.
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Although Mourinho has said he retains the support of his players amid rumours of a dressing-room mutiny against his hard-line style, the limp manner of their surrender against Bournemouth suggested otherwise.
Abramovich held talks with his closest Chelsea aides, Marina Granovskaia and Michael Emenalo, over the weekend, and it is reported the Russian told Mourinho he must lead the team into the last 16 of the Champions League to avoid being dismissed.
Chelsea need only a draw at Stamford Bridge in their final Group G fixture to be certain of a place in the knockout stages, but what in previous years would have been a forgone conclusion for a team managed by Mourinho now looks a decidedly more taxing task.
Once virtually unbeatable at home under Mourinho, Chelsea have lost four times on home turf this season and Porto, who need a win to be sure of progressing, are unlikely to prove a pushover after beating the West Londoners in Portugal earlier this season.
Faced with by far the worst run of his glittering managerial career, Mourinho has responded by ramping up his demands and he called the players in for extra training on Sunday, a move said to have been met with a far from enthusiastic response.
It would be the ultimate irony if the Portuguese club – where Mourinho made his name by winning the 2004 Champions League by beating Monaco in the final – deliver the final blow that ends his second spell with Chelsea.
And after so many unexpected setbacks this season, Mourinho concedes he can take nothing for granted against Porto.
“It’s a knockout game,” Mourinho told Chelsea TV. “It’s a group phase where normally you still play for points. But the reality is that it’s a knockout – Chelsea or Porto – one will be out. For sure, a big game.”
Dynamo Kiev are two points behind Chelsea and Porto and if the Ukrainian club fail to beat Maccabi Tel Aviv, Mourinho’s men would qualify even if they lose to Porto.
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