ANDRE Villas-Boas has sent out an SOS to Chelsea supporters to help him turn the club's calamitous season around after watching them lurch to another last-gasp defeat that puts their Champions League future in serious doubt.
Already in danger of failing to qualify for next year's competition following their worst start to a Premier League campaign since Roman Abramovich bought the Blues, Villas-Boas' side are now threatening to crash out of this season's tournament before the knockout phase.
Both scenarios would be unprecedented in the Abramovich era and would test to the limit the Russian's patience with his new manager, who is already odds-on with bookmakers not to be in charge at the start of next term, and the first Premier League boss to be sacked this season.
The next fortnight could prove the defining period of Chelsea's campaign and Villas-Boas' tenure, with league games against Wolves and Newcastle interspersed with a Carling Cup quarter-final and final Champions League group game against Valencia.
Last night's 2-1 Group E defeat at Bayer Leverkusen meant Villas-Boas' side must beat Valencia or keep a clean sheet to avoid dropping into the Europa League.
"We will need Stamford Bridge completely behind us to get the intensity right and the emotions right for the game," said Villas-Boas, who appeared emotionally drained after last night's drama. "It's in our hands to qualify.
"It's a game at Stamford Bridge and we expect to do our job. That's our responsibility and we don't want to let the fans down."
He added of the two prior home matches against Wolves and Liverpool: "We need to get the focus and concentration right.
"I have to inspire my players and motivate them, and we need our fans to be completely behind us in these critical moments."
Even if Chelsea beat Valencia, Leverkusen will expect to win at Genk and finish top of Group E, leaving the Blues facing the prospect of a nightmare last-16 draw against the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Inter Milan.
Villas-Boas added: "The most important thing for us at the moment is to qualify and eventually see what happens. That's our main focus."
You would not bank on Chelsea on current form and Villas-Boas admitted confidence was low in the dressing room.
"Yes, but that's when they expect the manager to inspire them," he said. "That's my job. That's my task, to inspire these people and motivate these people to change our faith."
Leverkusen boss Robin Dutt's mood was understandably in stark contrast to that of his opposite number after a win that secured his side's place in the money-spinning knockout phase. "The lads absolutely deserved to win this game given the passion they showed, and deserved to get through into the last 16," he said.