Less than three months after taking the hottest of hot seats at Chelsea, Rafael Benitez will lead his side out against Wigan with speculation that anything other than a win could lead to the end of his tumultuous tenure.
Chelsea have won just one of their last four matches in the Premier League and have crashed out of the Capital One Cup at the semifinal stage to Swansea, while also failing to beat League One side Brentford in the FA Cup in recent weeks.
With Chelsea fans continuing to show all manner of animosity toward Benitez, Roman Abramovich’s perennially hanging ax soon be ready to fall once more.
Benitez, though, feels that their results have not matched the performances.
“We could win all the games we didn't win,” he said, according to Chelsea’s official website. “It's a question of sometimes doing the right things at the right moment, a little bit of luck, being more clinical and not making mistakes in defense, but the team is doing well in terms of performance. We have to improve the results, especially in the games we were winning. We were training, practicing, analyzing but also working on the pitch and that's the main things we can do.
“We are working on the solutions. If you can score two goals and be two up you have to finish the games, and you cannot make these mistakes. You have to be sure you control the game.”
Despite their poor run, Chelsea remain in third place in the Premier League but are now firmly looking over their shoulder to a queue of sides below desperate to grab a Champions League spot.
There is some good news for Benitez with Demba Ba set to be available to face Wigan after getting a face mask to cover the broken nose he suffered against Newcastle last weekend. Eden Hazard is also available again after his suspension. John Terry will be missing with a knee injury.
Chelsea’s record against Wigan is good, having only lost once and won 12 of their 15 Premier League meetings.
Wigan have been struggling desperately in recent times having only managed a solitary victory in their last 12 Premier League outings. The Latics are now two points from safety and unless results improve they will be left to rely on another great escape to preserve their Premier League status.
Manager Roberto Martinez could welcome back Ivorian forward Arouna Kone from African Cup of Nations duty as well as defender Antolin Alcaraz from injury.
D: Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole
M: Ramires, Lampard
Mata, Oscar, Hazard
D: Scharner, Caldwell, Figueroa
M: Stam, McCarthy, McArthur, Beausejour
F: Espinoza, Di Santo, Maloney
Prediction: While Chelsea’s form has been poor, they couldn’t have handpicked better opponents to try and get back to winning ways. The atmosphere is unlikely to be harmonious at Stamford Bridge, though, and there may even be a few Chelsea fans who would happily see their team lose on Saturday if it meant Benitez being ousted.
Those supporters look may well be disappointed with Chelsea likely to have enough to get a win and enable Benitez to survive for at least another game.
Chelsea 2-1 Wigan
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League contest will kick-off at 10 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the FOX Soccer Channel, with an online stream available later in the day via a free trial to Fox Soccer 2Go.