LONDON • No Jose Mourinho hiding in the laundry this time - but Chelsea continue to be put through the wringer. The champions are down to 16th following Saturday's 0-1 defeat at Stoke City.
Never before in owner Roman Abramovich's era has a Chelsea team lost three straight Premier League matches. Never before in Mourinho's career has he lost seven league games in a campaign.
The statistics of the Blues' decline are getting numbing and so, too, the speculation about whether the Chelsea manager can cling to his job.
Not allowed in because of a one-match stadium ban (he beat a previous one by hiding inside a laundry basket), he can at least tell Abramovich this team are not improved by removing him from the dugout.
Blues fans still want him and they chanted his name in the final moments. Many aspects of Chelsea's performance were good, but two deep problems of this season still debilitate them - their forwards cannot score and, especially out wide, their backline has become fragile.
It was from a wing that Stoke created Marko Arnautovic's punishing goal. Slid clear by Xherdan Shaqiri, Glen Johnson crossed and Jonathan Walters and Kurt Zouma contested the ball.
It flipped up for Arnautovic who, from eight metres, timed a scissor kick beautifully to beat Asmir Begovic.
With that, Chelsea's inability to keep a clean sheet in away league games extended to eight matches.
The three coaches who stood in for Mourinho - Steve Holland, Silvino Louro and Rui Faria - declined to speak to the media after the game, which left the champions in lowly 16th place after seven defeats in 12 games.
However, Begovic insisted that the club's players remain firmly behind the Portuguese.
"That is out of our hands. We are behind the manager. You can see that from our performances," he said when asked about Mourinho's future.
"We think he is the right man and someone we work hard for.
"Jose did the pre-match talk at the hotel and that was it. We wanted to get a result for him. His spirit and his presence is always there."
Pedro Rodriguez hit the post and Eden Hazard put a shot inches wide as Chelsea pushed for a leveller, while substitute Loic Remy hurdled goalkeeper Jack Butland late on, but in trying to stay on his feet he lost balance and shot off-target.
Stoke manager Mark Hughes praised the France striker for staying on his feet.
"Credit to Remy at the end, he didn't look for a penalty," said the Welshman.
"Time and time again you see Premier League players leaving a leg behind them just to get contact, but he didn't do that.
"He hurdled Jack and looked to score a goal when he could have been more cynical and looked for a penalty."
Mourinho looked to have been given a further headache after the game when it emerged that a Stoke steward had accused Chelsea striker Diego Costa of deliberately treading on his foot as he looked to retrieve the ball for a throw-in.
But Chelsea have since dismissed the complaint as "utter nonsense" .
It is understood that the issue was then dealt with amicably and put to rest.
Video footage shows Costa running over the touchline to retrieve the ball for a throw-in and making, at best, very slight contact with a steward standing in the mouth of the tunnel.
The steward is understood to have complained post-match to the referee, despite his fellow stewards urging him not to pursue the incident.
THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN