Jose Mourinho-less Chelsea face Sunderland test
London: Chelsea start life after Jose Mourinho with a vital showdown against Sunderland on Saturday as the crisis-torn Premier League champions look to climb away from the relegation zone.
Chelsea players train at their Cobham training ground. Pic/Getty Images
Prior to his sacking on Thursday, Mourinho insisted that while the club was struggling near the bottom three, they were not in a relegation fight. But if results don’t improve quickly under Mourinho’s replacement it will be harder to reject the idea that the west London team are in deep trouble.
Monday’s 1-2 defeat at Leicester ended Mourinho's second spell in charge and left Chelsea in 16th spot with 15 points — two places and one point above the bottom three.
And if Sunderland, currently lying second bottom, become the fifth Premier League side to leave Stamford Bridge this season with three points, they will move level with Chelsea, adding to the log-jam at the foot of the table.
Whoever is in charge of Chelsea for the visit of Sam Allardyce’s side will have to coax a vastly improved performance from a group of players who have proved alarmingly inconsistent this season. Midfielder Nemanja Matic summed up the confusion surrounding Chelsea’s form when he said: "I cannot explain why consistency has been so difficult to achieve. I don’t know what happened to us (against Leicester). In the game against Porto, a very good team, we played very well, we scored two goals and created chances, but we were like another team on the pitch against Leicester."
Mourinho’s absence also impacts on Sunderland’s preparations as they might face a rejuvenated side and manager Sam Allardyce said: “I’m not sure whether it’ll make it harder or not to be honest. Everybody expects a reaction when a manager gets sacked, and sometimes there is and sometimes there isn’t. I always think it’s quite a sad state of affairs when a team of players actually plays better when their manager has been sacked. I find that quite sad.
“I find it irresponsible from a players’ point of view, especially when they come out after the game and say, ‘We’ve done that for the manager’.”
London: Roman Abramovich swept into Chelsea’s Cobham training ground on Friday amid reports Guus Hiddink is in London to hold discussions with the club about becoming their interim manager.
Chelsea owner Abramovich was pictured meeting players at training, and it has been reported he moved to allay any fears they may have had following Jose Mourinho’s exit on Thursday. Former Holland boss Hiddink told Dutch paper De Telegraaf he was in London yesterday to discuss a short-term role with Chelsea.