LONDON, November 4 – Under-fire Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has refused to reveal whether he has received renewed backing from owner Roman Abramovich ahead of Saturday’s crucial clash with Liverpool.
With the Premier League champions off to a spluttering start to their title defence, Abramovich gave Mourinho his public support in a statement released by the club earlier this month.
But Chelsea have won just one of four matches since then and Mourinho remains mired in controversy, with FA charges against him for behaviour in a defeat at West Ham, while the club’s former doctor intends to seek a claim for constructive dismissal following her fall-out with the Portuguese coach.
The Blues enter this weekend’s fixtures lying 15th in the table and adding to the pressure on Mourinho they bowed out of the League Cup with a penalty shoot-out defeat at Stoke on Tuesday.
Asked on Friday whether he had been given assurances over his position, Mourinho, who in August signed a four-year contract extension until June 2019, said: “I don’t have to tell you.”
Abramovich has previously axed managers when Chelsea’s place in the Premier League’s top four and qualification for the Champions League the following season had been in doubt.
Amid reports of a dressing room mutiny against Mourinho from players unhappy with his stern man-management, the Blues have won only one of their last seven matches and Mourinho has cut an increasingly troubled and tetchy figure.
Yet he remains adamant he is committed to reversing Chelsea’s slide.
“Chelsea is a big club. It’s the club that I choose to come to. It’s a club I live in a very specific way every day,” Mourinho said.
While Mourinho’s prospects remain uncertain, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who famously stunned Mourinho’s Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals when he was in charge of Borussia Dortmund, is looking forward to a bright future at Anfield after securing the first win of his reign in midweek.
The 1-0 League Cup victory over Bournemouth was a first for Klopp in four matches since he took over from Brendan Rodgers and the German hopes it will be the catalyst for a significant improvement in results.
“I saw in the eyes of all the players they wanted to win. I think the players understood better how to win. They want to do what I say,” he said.
“They think about football and not pressure and I think they know why they won.”
– Conservative tactics –
Meanwhile, Manuel Pellegrini vows Manchester City will aim for another goal glut as the most prolific side in the Premier League set their sights on struggling Norwich City.
Pellegrini’s table-toppers suffered a rare blank last Sunday when they ground out a 0-0 draw at Manchester United.
That was the first time City had failed to score this season and, despite picking up a useful point away to one of their title rivals, their conservative tactics drew criticism from some quarters.
However, City manager Pellegrini has made it clear he doesn’t expect a repeat against Norwich after normal service was resumed in midweek when a 5-1 win over Crystal Palace took City into the League Cup quarter-finals.
“It is the way we normally play. Maybe it was an accident on Sunday that especially in the second half we couldn’t create chances,” Pellegrini said.
“But it is not our style, so it was very important for the team to return to score goals.”
Second-placed Arsenal will bid to erase the painful memory of their embarrassing League Cup exit against Sheffield Wednesday when they return to Premier League action at Swansea City.
Wenger’s side head to south Wales still smarting from a dismal 3-0 League Cup exit at the hands of second-tier Wednesday in midweek.
And adding to Wenger’s woes, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott both sustained injuries that rule them out this weekend.
Manchester United also suffered a shock League Cup defeat, losing to second-tier Middlesbrough on penalties after a lacklustre performance that added to the pressure on out-of-form striker Wayne Rooney ahead of this weekend’s trip to Crystal Palace.
Aston Villa, bottom of the table and managerless after Tim Sherwood’s sacking, visit Tottenham Hotspur on Monday.
Chelsea v Liverpool (1245GMT), Crystal Palace v Manchester Utd, Manchester City v Norwich, Newcastle v Stoke, Swansea v Arsenal, Watford v West Ham, West Brom v Leicester
Everton v Sunderland (1330GMT), Southampton v Bournemouth (1600GMT)
Tottenham v Aston Villa (2000GMT)