Defiant Mourinho insists his job not at any risk
Jose Mourinho is adamant that he will survive as Chelsea manager even if his team finish outside the top four and fail to qualify for the Champions League.
Asked whether he expected to keep his job with a 'mid-table finish', Mourinho replied with an emphatic "yes" ahead of today's crucial Premier League match at home to Aston Villa.
Mourinho stressed that he did not "expect to finish mid-table" but said that "things were different now" and that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was prepared to stick with the most successful manager in the club's history.
That history, under Abramovich, would suggest that Mourinho would be wise not to assume safety. Chelsea have always changed managers when there is a fear of no longer being in the hunt for trophies and if there is any risk of not being in the Champions League.
Mourinho will point not just to his phenomenal record in a career of serial achievement, but also how early it remains in the season, even if he knows that Chelsea must quickly move up from 16th place.
Following their 3-1 home defeat by Southampton, Abramovich held discussions with Mourinho, with the manager claiming that he received assurances about his future directly from the Russian billionaire.
Nevertheless, Chelsea took the unprecedented step of issuing a statement in support of Mourinho, stating he was the "right manager to turn this season around".
Mourinho himself had raised the issue of whether he would have to leave Chelsea in his post-match comments after Southampton. He said this was because he knew the "question would come".
"I could imagine what the super pundits would be saying in the studio even though I couldn't listen," he said.
"I could anticipate the situation and I wanted to make it clear there was no chance I would resign."
Mourinho warned Abramovich before the start of the season that there was a danger of finishing outside the top four.
"This championship is so dangerous that, two years ago, Man United were out of the top four. Last year Liverpool were out of the top four. And this year somebody will be out of the top four," Mourinho said.
"Somebody can be Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United, Man City, Arsenal ... somebody will be out. Do I think it's Chelsea? No, I don't think it's Chelsea."
There will be anxiety about the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge today.
"Probably some of the fans are not happy," Mourinho said. "Maybe they are not ready to support the team. Some of the fans will be waiting, probably, to see how the team plays to support or not to support ... and the fans to put even more pressure on us. That's possible."
Mourinho took the unusual step of praising Diego Costa despite the striker admitting he had returned overweight for pre-season. "A guy that says that is not, for sure, the leader of a 'mutiny'," Mourinho said, also responding to claims of player unrest. "He's the kind of guy who assumes his own responsibility.
"I think it was a consequence of a bad approach, but also the consequence of a difficult last third of the season: suspension; injury; re-injury, go on holiday; go to Brazil. The food is much better than here. For a Brazilian, the food in Brazil is divine. He could say or use many excuses for our bad moment. He chose himself and his condition. So respect."
Mourinho confirmed he was appealing against the £50,000 fine and the one-match suspended stadium ban he received from the English FA.
(© Daily Telegraph, London)