LONDON • When Premier League champions Chelsea take on Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge today, two under-fire managers will come face to face.
Jose Mourinho's side are just two places above Villa in 16th, while Villa boss Tim Sherwood had to dismiss reports yesterday that he has two games to save his job.
The Blues, on eight points after eight games, are seeking just their second home win of the season. And Mourinho conceded that the statistics do not lie.
"We cannot run away from the reality of the table. Obviously we know we're not going to be relegated. We know in a couple of months we'll be fine," he said. "But the reality, right now, is the numbers are cruel but objective."
He also denied that he is facing player mutiny and suggested that some of his stars had also failed to sparkle for their respective national teams during the international break.
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Chelsea had 15 players - excluding those on loan - on international duty, with two missing penalties (Spain's Cesc Fabregas and Belgium's Eden Hazard) and two receiving red cards (Serbian duo Nemanja Matic and Branislav Ivanovic).
"I don't see a player not happy to be here, or unhappy when they're together," added Mourinho. "What I analyse in this period was no player in the national team was better than with us, so it's not the habitat."
That his underperforming players have yet to regain their form, however, is of little consolation.
"Every game is a must-win game and when we don't win, it's always a frustration. But we cannot run away from the reality of the situation," said the Portuguese.
"We need to win matches for us, for the Chelsea supporters. I don't know how to stop unfair stories but we are not worried. We are not going to be relegated - in a couple of months we will be in a position we want to be in."
His opposite number today has made a similar vow. Sherwood yesterday insisted that his team would not be playing in the Championship next season and that supporters would soon be chanting his name again.
"My objective this season was to stay in the Premier League and I'm 100 per cent certain we will," he said with his side four points adrift of safety.
"The players know the last few weeks haven't been good enough. There are a lot of points to be played for, enough to stay in the division."
There have been reports this week that Sherwood's position was under threat after the club's American owner Randy Lerner met Villa officials in the United States this week. But Villa's non-executive director Charles Krulak has since dismissed those claims.
"This is a critical point in a season, we know. I speak to Randy just about every day and we are still convinced we have good players and a good team," he told The Sun.
"To say Tim Sherwood has to win those games to survive is pure speculation. Randy has always wanted continuity and someone there for the long term."
After facing Chelsea, Villa's next opponents are Swansea.
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