Jose Mourinho's job is on the line in Champions League clash, says Richard Buxton
Only a win will see former Porto boss continue to hold the reins at Stamford Bridge
CHELSEA v PORTO
(Tomorrow, 3.45am, Singtel TV Ch 112 & StarHub TV Ch 212)
Down but not quite headed for the exit, Jose Mourinho has entered the win-or-bust stage of his Chelsea endgame.
Securing a point tomorrow morning (Singapore time) will be enough for the English Premier League champions to maintain a pulse, although there is an air of inevitability over the future of Mourinho.
Porto, though, threaten to hasten his exit from Stamford Bridge.
Should they be successful in dumping their former manager out of the Champions League, all potential roads to redemption for Mourinho will have reached a dead end.
Mourinho is not like Rafael Benitez. Where the Spaniard, his predecessor and long-standing nemesis, endeavoured to conjure a silk purse from the most pungent of sow's ears, the Special One refuses to entertain any prospect of salvation from the embers of underwhelming competition.
Benitez's philosophy that all attainable trophies remain prestigious is not shared by Chelsea's most successful manager.
Dropping into the Europa League invigorated Chelsea's season under Benitez, but Mourinho has repeatedly derided and denigrated the importance of the competition and its value.
To enter the Europa League which they won in 2013 would, in his eyes, constitute failure.
Even the prospect of guaranteed Champions League qualification, a virtue offered to Europa League winners, fails to alter the Portuguese's mindset.
He continues to think winning Europe's elite club competition outright is an attainable target for his team.
Defeating his former club, headed up by one-time Real Madrid adversary Iker Casillas, is the only option.
To the bitter end, Mourinho continues to abhor the prospect of Thursday-night football making an unwelcome return to Stamford Bridge in two months' time.
That unrelenting stance says as much about Chelsea as it does himself.
Remaining in the Champions League is central to their ethos and ambitions.
Without it, they won't be dining with Barcelona, Real and Bayern Munich in the continental elite, a status Chelsea crave because it is what owner Roman Abramovich craves.
Beggars, however, can't be choosers.
Mourinho is no longer the up-and-coming coach who embraced the Europa League in its previous incarnation of the Uefa Cup. His star is on the wane rather than the ascendancy.
A lot has changed since 2004, when Mourinho walked into the job and steered Chelsea to the league title.
Chelsea are no longer the unstoppable machine that strolled to the league crown and Diego Costa is not the prolific marksman that made Romelu Lukaku's offloading to Everton last summer a smart business decision.
Mourinho, too, is different. He is no longer the pre-eminent tactician who has won the Champions League twice and achieved domestic supremacy in four different countries.
He retains the box office billing but increasingly for all the wrong reasons.
The vultures continue to circle; their menace increasing with every defeat. Chelsea have suffered eight in their pitiful title defence already this season.
Were a second to follow in the Champions League, Abramovich will have little choice other than to allow them to pick at Mourinho's managerial carcass.
Mourinho stays confident
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is confident he retains the support of the club's owner Roman Abramovich ahead of the Champions League match against Porto which could determine his future at Stamford Bridge.
At a lively news conference yesterday, the under-pressure Mourinho was in more defiant but good-natured mood than of late, insisting that he was an "optimist" and that his struggles this season had made him a better manager.
Mourinho was asked whether if he failed to make the Champions League knockout stages - a fate which could befall Chelsea if they do not beat his old side Porto in the Group G finale - he still expected to be manager for Monday's Premier League match against leaders Leicester City.
"There are no ifs," he said. "You are a pessimist - I am an optimist."
Asked why he was confident of the support of chairman Abramovich, an owner with a penchant for quickly disposing of under-achieving managers, Mourinho said: "Because I think I did lots of good things for this club for the owner to know the quality I have.
"He believed in me twice. One, when he brought me back to the club, and the second time when he gave me a new four-year contract.
"I don't think the owner is a person to change with the wind. I know this wind is really strong because the results in the Premier League are really bad but I think the owner knows what I give to the club and he believes I am the right man to do the job."
Mourinho, who signed a four-year deal until June 2019 in August and received a vote of confidence from Abramovich on Oct 5, also has the support of Sir Alex Ferguson, who believes it would be "foolish" for Abramovich to sack the Portuguese.
Former Manchester United manager Ferguson, speaking with Sir Michael Moritz, the co-author of his book: Leading at the TechCrunch Disrupt London event, was asked what advice he would have for Abramovich.
The Scot replied: "Don't read the papers, I think that would be a mistake.... I think he has sacked so many coaches in the last 10 years that I am sure he has learned by it.
"(Abramovich) has to trust and have confidence Jose can turn it around, there is no point in sacking one of the best coaches of all time.
"It would be foolish for him to take that step to sacking him. That would be bad management; it is not leadership, that."
Mourinho has admitted, after last Saturday's 1-0 home defeat to Bournemouth, that the defending Premier League champions now face a battle to finish in the top four. Chelsea are in 14th place and just three points clear of the relegation zone.
Ferguson believes Mourinho remains the right man for the job.
"I have been watching Jose recently and spoken to him a couple of times, and this is the first time he has been confronted with non-success," he said.
"If you look at his whole career, there has been nothing but a rise all of the time, so for the first time in his life he has had to deal with bad publicity, adversity and that is a challenge for him. But there are signs he is getting back to a balanced level although they lost on Saturday.
"For Jose, I think all good leaders will eventually find a solution. I think he will find a solution. I know the guy and I know the work he has done in football and I can't see it lasting long, I can't see it." - Wire Services.
I feel a little bit sorry for what’s happened there but i’m sure they have a great team, a great manager and i’m sure they will get out of this misery.
— Wolfsburg’s Andre Schuerrle, a former Chelsea player
Mourinho can’t live with defeat, that’s why he isn’t doing great. Despite that, i think he’s the right man to turn things around at Chelsea.
— Former Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho
Any other manager would have gone, there are no two ways about it. Mourinho is only still there, purely and simply, for what he’s done in the past.
— Chelsea great Ray Wilkins
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