Chelsea loss to Bournemouth puts pressure back on Jose Mourinho
Chelsea 0-1 Bournemouth
Roman Abramovich still wants to keep Jose Mourinho as manager despite Chelsea suffering an eighth league defeat of a miserable season on Saturday, but there is a growing fear in the club's higher circles that Champions League elimination on Wednesday could force the owner's hand.
According to sources, there has been widespread belief around both Mourinho and the club in the last week that he has got past the worst of the crisis and that "the storm is over" - as was reflected in the manager's upbeat mood in his press conference before the Bournemouth game.
Yet a 1-0 defeat to a Glenn Murray goal has caused doubt to resurface, and Chelsea must now avoid defeat to Porto at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday to ensure they reach the last 16 of the Champions League.
Although the possibility of sacking Mourinho has at least been discussed at the top level of the club a few times this season, Abramovich has remained strong in his belief that the Portuguese should be given time to turn things around, partially because the owner wants Chelsea to start doing things differently and partially because of the lack of options.
To strengthen that position, the club is willing to make significant funds available for a shake-up in the transfer window next month.
Mourinho recently played down the idea of new purchases, but it is known that he feels the squad is too small - leading to an over-reliance on core players which has played into this season's bad start - that he wants another central defender and to greatly enhance his attacking options.
There is an acknowledgement at the top of the club that the lack of forward options has not helped Mourinho, especially since he seems to have resolved defensive issues, despite the somewhat chaotic nature of Murray's winner on Saturday. Diego Costa is the only top-class forward they have, but his poor form led the manager to start him on the bench again on Saturday, putting Eden Hazard up front once more.
Beyond that, Loic Remy is not seen as a starter, and the club will look to move Radamel Falcao on in January.
It has meant that, even though Chelsea have started to keep clean sheets again, they are barely scoring.
The champions have got only one goal in their last four league games, so the club will look to help Mourinho next month.
Chelsea have been monitoring the Brazilian Alex Teixeira of Shakhtar Donetsk, and their hand has been strengthened by the Ukrainian club's elimination from the Champions League, but Mourinho's side could yet find themselves in a similar situation.
A draw against Porto on Wednesday would definitely put the English champions into the next round, but the concern is that their home form has been so poor, and they have already been beaten by inferior sides to the Portuguese at Stamford Bridge this season.
It is set to be a nervous night in west London, and some at the club believe that could influence Abramovich's thinking.
The Russian is known to prize the Champions League far above all other competitions, and one factor that has bolstered his belief that Mourinho can turn things around has been that they have stayed on course in that competition.
Defeat could change that, though, and cause another round of intense discussion at the top of the club.
It would mark just the second time they have gone out at the group stage since Abramovich took over in 2003.
Mourinho has not been given an ultimatum or anything of the sort, but is aware that on Wednesday he faces a defining game.