Largely unable to string together victories and sitting in a very unfamiliar position on the domestic table, Chelsea aims to keep its dwindling Champions League hopes alive against Dynamo Kiev in Wednesday’s Group G matchup at Stamford Bridge.
Following Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Premier League rival Liverpool, the defending champions currently sit in 15th place after suffering their third loss in four domestic matches and have only three wins in 11 total games.
A loss to Serhiy Rebrov’s side would significantly cripple Chelsea’s aspirations and potentially lead to their elimination from the group stage for just the second time in history.
Jose Mourinho’s job also appears to be in jeopardy, especially given how Chelsea’s Premier League struggles have spilled into the Champions League. The Blues have a flat 1-1-1 mark through three group matches, which is good for a mere four points and third place.
Sources told ESPNFC that Mourinho, currently in his third season as Chelsea manager, has two matches left to save his job, the home matchup with Dynamo and Saturday’s trip to Stoke. However, former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti is reportedly ready to step in on an interim basis should Mourinho be sacked.
And Mourinho, whether his job is on the line or not, fully understands the importance of Wednesday’s match with the reigning Ukrainian Premier League champs.
"It's a big game. It's a game that we cannot lose," he said to Chelsea TV. "We still can finish first, second or third, and obviously we want to finish in the top two."
He also wouldn’t blame his squad for the Liverpool loss.
"There are things that are out of our hands. The players tried. You could feel, and not just because we scored in the first couple of minutes, the attitude, desire. It was 50-50 despite the fact we were winning 1-0.
"There were two minutes of added time [in the first half] and we conceded the goal after two minutes and 35 seconds.
"What happened in the second half was a consequence of crucial moments, moments that the stadium saw, and more than just see it, the players felt it. From then, what happened was just a consequence."
The blame for the Blues poor start can be evenly split between the attack and defense. Stars scorers like Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, and Willian have combined for a mere five goals in 27 starts, and keeper Asmir Begovic has conceded 17 goals in eight starts while filling in for the injured Thibaut Courtois.
Knotted in first with 31 points on the domestic table, Dynamo’s only picked up one victory and scored four goals in three Champions league matches thus far, but they’ve lost one match across all competitions this season.
The two sides last clashed on Oct. 20, finishing up nil-nil at Kiev Olympic Stadium, which created their one-point separation in the group and serves as all the more reason for Dynamo to sit back and rely on its defense rather than tempt fate against the Blues.
Dynamo keeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy, 40, turned back all five of Chelsea’s shots on target in the last match and he’s recorded six saves in two UCL starts this season.
Prediction: Chelsea over Dynamo Kiev, 1-0