English Premiership

Mourinho looks to ignite Blues

2015-10-16 08:54
Cesc Fabregas (AFP)

London - Jose Mourinho will once again attempt to ignite Chelsea's spluttering season after an international break that offered only temporary respite from the growing pressure on the Blues manager.

Mourinho's problems are highlighted by the fact Saturday's meeting with Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge is unexpectedly a clash between two teams struggling at the foot of the table.

A 3-1 home defeat to Southampton last time out left Mourinho's side two places and four points better off than Villa who lie third bottom and further underlined the rapid decline of last season's champions.

Mourinho reacted to that loss with a lengthy outburst that prompted the club to take the unusual step of issuing a statement backing the manager, while last week a number of senior players voiced their support of the Portuguese coach.

Nonetheless, reports of dressing room unrest continue to emerge and Mourinho knows the only way to draw a line under a disastrous start is for his team to start producing results on the pitch.

The visit of a struggling Villa side should provide the perfect opportunity, but Chelsea have looked uncharacteristically vulnerable so far and Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas acknowledges results must improve quickly.

"It's a very strange situation for Chelsea to be in at the wrong end of the table," Fabregas said.

"And, for most of us at the club, it is the first time we have ever been down there. Now we all know how it feels and we hate it.

"At Chelsea, we always want to be at the top of the Premier League, fighting to win the Champions League, competing for every trophy.

"So it's clear this time we are doing things wrong and our performances have not been at the level required at this club."

Fabregas is convinced things can turn around and believes Chelsea could yet close the 10-point gap between themselves and the head of the table and retain the title.

"We are dealing with our problems on the training ground as a group. We must work harder, plan better and compete better than we have. I still believe we can win the league," he added.

Mourinho will be forced into at least one change with defender Branislav Ivanovic - widely criticised this season after a string of poor performances - out for a month after injuring his hamstring while on international duty with Serbia.

Villa will arrive in London with manager Tim Sherwood's position under intense scrutiny after a sequence of six defeats and a draw in their last seven league games.

They sit in the bottom three having failed to win since the success at Bournemouth on the opening day of the season.

And the club's hierarchy are believed to be assessing the position of the former Tottenham manager, who led Villa to the FA Cup final just five months ago.

There is clear friction between Sherwood and other senior figures over signings and fans turned on him following their 1-0 home defeat to Stoke before the international break.

Assistant manager Ray Wilkins believes, though, that sacking Sherwood would be counter-productive.

"I think it would be a huge mistake as far as Tim and Aston Villa are concerned," said former Chelsea assistant Wilkins.

"He's an up-and-coming manager, he did extremely well at Tottenham and let's not forget, it was only six or seven months ago that we were in the FA Cup final and staved off relegation.

"So we really shouldn't be talking about this type of situation.

"We'll get there, it's going to be a lot of hard work but we'll get there."

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