LONDON • Jose Mourinho has been told that he must guide Chelsea into the knockout stages of the Champions League this week to safeguard his position as manager.
The limping Premier League champions need a point from their final fixture against Porto tomorrow to qualify for the round of 16.
Defeat, though, could bring the end of his second spell as manager at Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho was given a public vote of confidence by Chelsea at the start of October. But he was also told that Roman Abramovich's patience during the club's worst start to a season under his ownership would not last forever.
We have to regroup again and show strength against Porto in the Champions League and next Monday at Leicester.
THIBAUT COURTOIS, Chelsea goalkeeper
Saturday's 1-0 home defeat by Bournemouth has eroded any belief in an uplift in form and raised further questions about Mourinho's future.
Abramovich was at Stamford Bridge on Saturday to witness another poor display. He held talks the next day with his closest aides at Chelsea, Marina Granovskaia and Michael Emenalo, on how best to salvage the season.
It is understood that all three agreed they should do whatever it takes to turn things around - including dispensing with the most successful manager in the club's history if necessary.
Elimination from the Champions League with a loss against Porto - coupled with a Dynamo Kiev victory over point-less Maccabi Tel-Aviv in the other Group G match - would effectively leave Chelsea with nothing to play for in the two competitions that mean the most to Abramovich.
The winners of the Europa League earn a Champions League spot. However, Mourinho may choose to field a weakened team if the Blues secure a place in the secondary competition.
The Portuguese admitted on Saturday that a top-four Premier League finish may be beyond them, as they trail fourth-placed Manchester United by 12 points.
Five days after the crucial Porto match, Chelsea will travel to Leicester City to face the surprise Premier League leaders.
Mourinho called the players in for training on Sunday.
Although they were far from enthusiastic about the extra session, the manager believes that he still has their backing.
Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has already challenged his team-mates to respond after Saturday's shock loss.
"We have to regroup again and show strength against Porto in the Champions League and next Monday at Leicester," he told the club's official website.
"It's an important week for us.
"On Wednesday, we have to win to make sure we are first and qualify. That will be a big boost for the team as well.
"Then, Leicester away is a difficult game.
"We knew last year it was not easy there and now they have the confidence and are playing really well. It will be a very tough game but we are confident we can push on there."
THE TIMES, LONDON