Jose Mourinho has admitted he is in “the worst period” of his career as he again seeks to turnaround Chelsea’s ailing fortunes against Southampton on Saturday. Through the first seven games of the campaign, Mourinho’s side sit 14th in the Premier League, having already lost as many games -- three -- as they did through the entirety of last season’s title win. Evan after appearing to have steadied the ship when going four games unbeaten, Chelsea lost to FC Porto on Tuesday on the back of another substandard performance. And the Portuguese was not shying away from just how difficult the start to the season has been.
“I define it as the worst period in my career, with the worst results in my career," he said. "I get it as a fantastic experience, an experience that I don’t want to repeat -- I want to finish tomorrow with this experience and start winning matches again.
“I think it comes too late, to come after 15 years. It should have come after two, three or four years, but it's something that is helping me to be better. It’s a great negative experience. I’ve had big challenges all the time, but it’s the worst results. I’ve never lost so many matches. That’s a fact.”
Along with the poor results, Mourinho has also caused plenty of headlines with his actions away from the pitch. On Friday, he refused to comment on the latest development in one of his biggest controversies, as he was cleared of making discriminatory comments toward former club doctor Eva Carneiro.
He was far more talkative ahead of the Porto match, when questioning whether several members of his squad had the mentality required for sustained success. Those comments were followed up by decisions to start with Eden Hazard, Nemanja Matic and Jon Terry on the bench in Portugal and not even including Oscar in the squad. Mourinho refused to comment on what his team selection will be on Saturday, although Diego Costa will serve the final game of his domestic three-game ban.
Southampton will head to Stamford Bridge a point and four places above Chelsea in the Premier League. It still has been a mixed start to the campaign for Ronald Koeman’s side after yet again losing key players in the summer. But they appear to be finding their feet, having followed up a 6-0 victory over Milton Keynes Dons in the Capital One Cup with a 3-1 win over Swansea City in the Premier League last week. They can also take encouragement from holding Chelsea to two draws last season, although Koeman insists he isn’t reading too much into the London club’s struggles so far this campaign.
“We know what we can expect this Saturday,” he told Southampton’s official website. “We had two good results last year against them, but we have to play on a higher level than we did against Swansea.
“We know it’s a difficult opponent. For sure, they will react after the loss against Porto in the Champions League. They will go up in the table because they don’t stay that low for so long. We know what they can bring. We know the qualities of them. We have to be good and on a very high level to have a good result.”
Southampton could have Dutch midfielder Jordy Clasie back available, although Koeman suggested that Saturday’s match is likely to come too soon in his recovery from an ankle injury. The club’s only major confirmed absentee is long-term casualty Fraser Forster.
Prediction: Having tried a variety of extreme tactics to try and kick-start Chelsea’s season, including his outspoken criticism of his squad this week, it is difficult to know where Mourinho goes from here. With the quality in the team, there is still a feeling that their fortunes must turnaround. But there are no guarantees, especially given that Mourinho has yet to show he can truly succeed in a third season at a club. It may be tough going on Saturday, too, with Southampton having the pace and creativity going forward to cause Chelsea further problems. Yet Koeman’s team also remains a work in progress, which could lead to an entertaining draw.
Predicted score: Chelsea 2-2 Southampton
Kickoff time: 12:30 p.m. EDT
TV channel: NBC
Live stream info: NBC Sports Live Extra