Trent (UK): Jose Mourinho enters the international break with his future as Chelsea manager under closer scrutiny than ever before following his team's 0-1 defeat at Stoke City.

Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho

The outspoken Portuguese was not even present at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday as he served a one-match stadium ban for his verbal onslaught on match officials during the recent defeat at West Ham.

But as he watched Chelsea's attempts to find an equaliser fizzle out on TV at the team hotel, he will have known that two weeks of intense speculation and analysis now await him. It is the first time in 16 years that Chelsea have lost three consecutive league games. Marko Arnautovic's 53rd-minute goal left the champions in 16th place after seven defeats in 12 games.

Players supporting Jose
However, goalkeeper Asmir Begovic insisted that the club's players remain firmly behind the 52-year-old Portuguese, as do the supporters, who chanted his name and wore his face mask throughout the game.

"We are behind the manager. We think he's the right man and someone we work hard for," said Begovic. Stoke manager Mark Hughes, whose team knocked Chelsea out of the League Cup via penalties last week, admitted overseeing a game against a dug-out without a manager was a first for him.

Stoke City's Marko Arnautovic (left) shoots to score against Chelsea during their EPL match at Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday. Pic/AFP
Stoke City's Marko Arnautovic (left) shoots to score against Chelsea during their EPL match at Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday. Pic/AFP

"It's a rare occurrence when the opposition manager isn't there. I've not experienced it before, But I read words from Jose this week saying maybe the top teams will lose more games this season. The middle set of teams in the EPL are a challenge for the top teams this year and I have to agree," said Hughes.

Mourinho was given a further headache after the game when it emerged that a Stoke steward had accused striker Diego Costa of deliberately treading on his foot as he looked to retrieve the ball for a throw-in. However, a a Chelsea spokesman said: "This claim is utter nonsense."

No sweet 16 this
16
The number of years (from October 1999) since Chelsea have lost three consecutive league games this season

16
Champions Chelsea's current spot in the EPL points table