LONDON • Juande Ramos is the shock candidate being considered as a potential caretaker manager by Chelsea, should they decide to sack Jose Mourinho before the end of the season.
The club's executives were set to deliberate with owner Roman Abramovich over Mourinho's future yesterday, with the discussions believed to centre on whether to dismiss the manager immediately or allow him to take charge of Saturday's Premier League match against Sunderland.
Abramovich is reluctant to sack Mourinho for the second time but is increasingly concerned that he is incapable of improving Chelsea's fortunes in the short term.
The owner fears that the manager's damaged relationship with some players is irreparable.
In that context, there is a growing belief at the club that just about any experienced manager would improve the players' morale and lead to an upturn in results, enabling Chelsea to climb from their current position of 16th in the league - one point above the relegation zone.
Ramos is being considered along with Guus Hiddink, who led the club to an FA Cup title and the Champions League semi-finals during a caretaker spell in 2008. The Dutchman remains close to Abramovich but at 69, it is unclear whether he would want to take on such a demanding job.
We all have bad games, but the attitude always has to be spot-on... and not show the behaviour that we are seeing right now from every Chelsea player.
CESC FABREGAS, Chelsea playmaker
Ramos in contrast would jump at the chance to return to the Premier League as he has been out of work since leaving Ukrainian outfit Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk last year.
The former Tottenham Hotspur manager would not be considered for a permanent role and is seen as a firefighter in a similar mould to Rafael Benitez, who was surprisingly appointed interim manager following the sacking of Roberto di Matteo three years ago.
In a fix
Can things get any worse for champions Chelsea? Three tricky league games await.
Saturday: Sunderland (h)
Chelsea have won just one of their last four matches against Sunderland.
Next Saturday: Watford (h)
Newly-promoted Watford have the second-best form in the league, winning four of their past six games and scoring in their last seven.
December 28: Manchester United (a)
The Blues have won only once in their last seven trips to Old Trafford.
Chelsea, EPL wait on Pep's call
MUNICH • Pep Guardiola has confirmed he will make a decision over his future with Bayern Munich in the next week.
The Spaniard, who is in the final year of his contract with the German champions, has been linked with a move to Manchester City next season with some reports last month stating that he has already decided to move to the English Premier League.
But after Bayern's 1-0 win over Darmstadt on Tuesday night, he refused to comment on questions about his future.
"Tonight, I have no answer," said the former Barcelona manager, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich's dream manager. "Next week there will be clarity."
Ramos has enjoyed success as a caretaker manager at a big club in the past. He guided Real Madrid back into the La Liga title race with a run of 16 wins and one draw in 17 matches when he replaced Bernd Schuster in the 2008-09 season, before they finished second to Barcelona.
The 61-year-old also has a reputation as a disciplinarian, which Chelsea believe is required, given the problems Mourinho has had with the dressing room this season.
In addition, Abramovich is attracted by the Spaniard's attacking style of football, which helped him lead Sevilla to successive Uefa Cup wins and a Copa del Rey victory in just two seasons at the club before he joined Spurs in 2007.
The Blues owner's top managerial targets, however, are Pep Guardiola and Diego Simeone. But there are huge doubts within the club over whether Chelsea would prove an attractive proposition for either man, particularly given that they are unlikely to be in the Champions League next season.
Antonio Conte, the Italy head coach, has been mentioned, while Sevilla's Unai Emery has admirers.
Mourinho still hopes to remain in charge for the weekend and took training yesterday. He received a welcome show of support from Cesc Fabregas following Monday's defeat by Leicester City.
"We all have to take our responsibility - if you are a big player and are paid like a big player, you have to perform and behave like a big player," Fabregas said.
The Spain midfielder also supported Mourinho's contention that the players should take responsibility for poor results while intimating that the attitude of some of his team-mates has been questionable.
"We all have bad games, but the attitude always has to be spot-on and we have to be at the top of our games even when it's not, and not show the behaviour that we are seeing right now from every Chelsea player," he added.
Yet it remains uncertain who Mourinho's allies are in the Stamford Bridge dressing room following numerous public criticisms of their performances.
He has dropped pretty much every player at some point, including captain John Terry, Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic.
Hazard is also understood to have been unhappy at having his commitment and professionalism questioned by Mourinho after his decision to leave the pitch on Monday following a clash with Jamie Vardy.
The Portuguese is also understood to have recently clashed with his goalkeeping coach Christophe Lollichon as the Frenchman had advocated making Thibaut Courtois wait to return to the first team because of the good performances of Asmir Begovic.
THE TIMES, LONDON