LONDON • Jose Mourinho said his players had betrayed him and can no longer view themselves as superstars after Chelsea suffered a ninth league defeat of the season to leave them a point above the relegation zone and the manager under increasing pressure.
On a night when Leicester City regained top spot courtesy of goals from Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez in a 2-1 win over the champions, Mourinho also rounded on the ballboys, whom he accused of being a "disgrace to the Premier League" for alleged time-wasting.
The Chelsea manager was most upset, however, with his players on Monday. He said their pride should be damaged because of their poor performances.
With Sunderland to come at Stamford Bridge on Saturday followed by another home game against Watford, Mourinho claimed that his squad had to accept they belonged at the same level as their next two opponents.
League games Chelsea have lost this term - as many as Jose Mourinho's last two complete seasons at Stamford Bridge.
League goals that Jamie Vardy has scored this season - as many as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi combined.
Vardy is the first English player since Wayne Rooney to score in six consecutive home league matches.
No side in Premier League history have finished outside the top four after topping the table at this stage.
Percentage of teams with 15 points or fewer at this stage who have gone on to be relegated.
Asked whether he was 100 per cent convinced that he would still be in charge for the Sunderland game, Mourinho replied: "The only thing I can say is that I want to be.
"I have no doubts and I think you know me well enough, three years this time, plus three years another time, that I am not afraid of a big challenge, and in this moment this is a real big challenge.
"I want to stay, I hope (owner) Mr (Roman) Abramovich and the board want me to stay."
He is clearly exasperated with the way everything has unravelled so spectacularly this season but he said the same players would have to dig themselves out of the hole.
"My board, my club, I don't think it's right that I go to them and say these players are not good, we need to spend £50 million (S$106 million) or £100 million or whatever, I don't think it's fair," he said.
"We have these players and it's with these players we have to go. The players that are not performing well, they must feel attacked in their pride and their self-esteem and they have to do everything to get results in a humble way.
"I don't think in this moment they can feel they are top players or they can feel they are superstars.
"They have to look at the Leicester boys and to feel these are the stars, these are the top players.
"They have to look to Sunderland and Watford and say, 'We are at the same level. I am not the superstar, I am not the player of the season, I am not the world champion, I am not the Premier League champion. At this moment, I am at your level.'"
Mourinho was also bitterly upset that his players failed to heed his warnings about the attacking threat Leicester posed.
"They are two goals (that are) very difficult to accept, big frustration to accept, because I feel like my work was betrayed if it's the right word," he said.
"I worked four days in training for this match. I identified four movements where Leicester score a lot of their goals and, in two of the four situations I identified, they scored their goals. I went through it all with the players, you can ask them."
The Portuguese expected his players to force Mahrez on to his weaker right foot, and note the movement of Vardy between the two central defenders.
Instead, Vardy volleyed home Mahrez's left-footed cross from the right wing after 34 minutes.
The Algeria forward then teased Cesar Azpilicueta on the right side of the area before curling a sublime left-footed shot into the far corner three minutes after the break.
Substitute Loic Remy reduced the deficit with a close-range headed goal 13 minutes from time. But the hosts held on to leave Chelsea mired in 16th place on 15 points.
"The top four is gone - clearly," Mourinho said.
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS