Mourinho needs his five stalwarts to step up
Mourinho desperate for salvation in Europe but his five lieutenants must step up
CHELSEA v DYNAMO KIEV
(Tomorrow, 3.45am, Singtel TV Ch 111 & StarHub TV Ch 203)
It is do or die for Jose Mourinho.
Chelsea's well-oiled machine that sauntered to the English Premier League title has broken down in just six months. It risks being rendered a complete write-off before this week is out.
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown; the Portuguese seems to have lost the plot in what looks certain to be his end of days at Stamford Bridge.
The blueprint for the club's long-term success he outlined two years ago now lies in tatters.
Stamford Bridge resembles a happy hunting ground far more than it does a fortress these days, and Mourinho's siege mentality is now all-encompassing in its alienation, leaving those inside the Chelsea tent equally susceptible to scorn as those residing beyond its periphery.
There appears to be no way back. The manager's refusal to acknowledge that he is staring at a crisis remains the main obstacle to any potential road to redemption.
Only the Champions League offers a semblance of salvation for a season that teeters on the brink.
Supporters remain unstinting in their belief that the manager formerly known as the Special One can steer them back to the promised land.
Now, his star men must follow suit. His players, the leaders of the team, have to also bear responsibility for Chelsea's remarkable slide. These five were feted last season, and now that the going has got really tough, they must step up, or Mourinho's fate, and possibly their future at the club, could be sunk by billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.
1 EDEN HAZARD
Unquestionably Mourinho's biggest scapegoat; Hazard was the designated fall guy for Chelsea's Champions League semi-final exit to Atletico Madrid in 2014 and it is a theme that has continued in the current campaign.
He appears a mere husk of the winger who was crowned Player of the Year last season.
Mourinho's heart-to-heart in an attempt to get the best out of him backfired, as he was hauled off after an hour last weekend.
Real Madrid's continued interest in the Belgian has provided an unwelcome backdrop.
2 CESC FABREGAS
He may claim he has been falsely cited as the leader of a dressing-room revolt against Mourinho, but Fabregas' actions continue to speak louder than any public protestations.
A solitary assist, compared to nine at this stage last season, illustrates a drop in standards for the one-time Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder.
His leisurely approach as Liverpool launched a counter-attack during last weekend's defeat embodied a player that is no longer on-message with his teammates.
3 JOHN TERRY
Ever-present last season, the 34-year-old's transformation from elder statesman to ageing on-field apologist has been as rapid as Chelsea's fall from grace.
The current predicament is as much uncharted territory for the former England international as it is for his beleaguered manager. So, too was his half-time substitution at Manchester City in August - his first in 177 games.
Mourinho's failure to lure John Stones from Everton came at a cumulative cost, with Terry appearing devoid of both the leadership and defensive qualities that saw him revered just six months ago.
4 NEMANJA MATIC
The Serb's stabilising influence was a key component of the Chelsea juggernaut last season, perhaps even their talisman - he was a notable absentee in their only defeat during the first half of the title-winning campaign.
But, like Hazard, Matic has found himself regularly sacrificed by Mourinho this season.
On the occasions where he has featured, his influence has significantly waned. A sending-off against West Ham United last month continued his downward spiral.
5 DIEGO COSTA
Another 20-goal haul appears unlikely from a player who has recorded just three goals in 13 competitive outings, compared to 12 in the same number of games last season.
Opposing defences have worked out his diversionary tactic of in-game feuding and have nullified the Brazilian-born hit-man in a fashion that renders Chelsea's attack toothless.
Like Mourinho, Costa has to find a way to reinvent himself without the time-honoured Art of War mentality that allowed him to rile and rattle rival players and managers alike.
For my players, I do everything. I always did and I am not going to change.
— Blues boss Jose Mourinho, saying he still has the support of his players and he will still back them
I can assure you right now the players are 100 per cent behind the manager. I’m adamant we’re going to turn this round and he’ll be in charge for the rest of the season and long after I’ve finished playing at this football club.
— Chelsea captain John Terry
'NO PLAYER REVOLT AT CHELSEA'
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho rejected suggestions there was a player revolt against him and dismissed reports that one player would rather lose than play for him as "dishonest".
Blues midfielder Cesc Fabregas earlier denied reports that he had fallen out with Mourinho and was behind plans to unseat the manager.
"It's a very sad accusation because you are accusing players, or one player, of dishonesty," Mourinho said, ahead of the Champions League Group G match against Dynamo Kiev at Stamford Bridge tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
"If I accuse you of being a dishonest journalist, I think you would be very upset and probably you would take legal action. It is a question for the players, not for me."
Mourinho (left) said he had a "fantastic personal and professional relationship" with his players who were united in their efforts to improve results which have left the Premier League champions 15th in the table with three wins from their opening 11 matches.
Mourinho said he knew why their form had been so bad, but would not elaborate.
"It's a combination of factors and some of them I don't want to touch them, but yes I know," he said. "Everything is football-related.
"We don't want to blame social or political problems in some corner of the globe."
Fabregas denied suggestions of a rift with Mourinho, accusing "certain individuals from outside" of trying to destabilise the club and refuting reports that he is leading an alleged dressing-room revolt.
"I would like to clarify that contrary to a few reports from some online websites, I am extremely happy at Chelsea and have an excellent relationship with the manager," Fabregas wrote on Twitter.
"There may be certain individuals from the outside trying to destabilise this club, but I strongly believe that we will bounce back and come good again."
Mourinho also declined to reveal if discussions had taken place with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich over his future, merely pointing to his lengthy contract.
Mourinho said: "I don't have to answer you if I was with the owner or not."
Asked how much time he thought he had, Mourinho, who signed a new contract until June 2019 on the eve of the season, said: "Four years. In this case, three years and seven months." - Wire Services.