The pressure is on Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho who has been forced to deny rumours of a player revolt at Stamford Bridge ahead of the visit of Dinamo Kiev.
The Ukrainian champions held the Blues to goalless draw in the Champions League reverse fixture and Mourinho’s men must halt a dismal run of form if the manager’s reign is to continue.
Blues bad at home and away
Chelsea’s defence of their EPL title has been shocking. They sit 15th in the table with a jaw dropping six defeats in their 11 EPL matches and have made the worst ever start to a campaign of any previous reigning Premier League champions.
The Champions League has not been much better – the opening game thrashing of Macabi Tel Aviv was followed by defeat in Portugal and the draw in Kiev that has left Chelsea third in the group on four points.
They have only failed to qualify for the knock-out stages once before (in 2012-2013) but defeat tonight to the group’s second placed team could see them repeat that unwanted feat.
Kiev will be stern opposition despite having never won in England before and only ever drawing two of their previous 12 games. This season they are unbeaten in the Champions League (W1, D2) after three games and have kept an incredible 14 clean sheets in their 19 matches across all competitions this season.
Despite their domestic form, perilous Champions League position and the growing speculation about his own future with the club, Mourinho is still taking a long view.
“Tomorrow is not a must-win game. It’s a must-not lose game, so if we draw and then win the last two matches we will qualify,” he said.
More drama ahead for Mourinho
Macabi are next up for the Blues before the final group game – the one that could decide Mourinho’s future at Chelsea- when he hosts his former club Porto at the Bridge, the very team who inflicted a 2-1 defeat in Portugal in September.
The manager may be bolstered by the return of Branislav Ivanovic to his beleaguered defence, but the Serb was less than impressive in the games before picking up the hamstring injury which has ruled him out.
Pedro is also poised to be available to take on Kiev and the former Barca man will need to be at his best to alleviate some of the pressure building on his manager.
Radamel Falcao’s travails since returning from a long injury lay-off have been widely documented and the Colombian striker is set to miss more games for the Blues.
Mourinho said Falcao – on-loan from French Ligue 1 side Monaco – will miss the next few weeks due to a muscle injury picked up in training on Tuesday.
Such has been Falcao’s dismal displays and lack of goals that his injury could be a blessing in disguise for Chelsea and Mourinho is likely to reinstate Loic Remy as first choice back-up for Diego Costa.
Thibaut Courtois’s knee injury continues to rule the Belgium goalkeeper out.
By: Joe Cahal