It started out as a ill wind, but has been more of a hurricane for some time.
Now Jose Mourinho has been left clinging on in the desperate hope that he is not swept away with Chelsea ‘s records and the air of invincibility that has already long gone.
Bournemouth became the eighth team to beat the demoralised Premier League champions when they won at Stamford Bridge at the weekend.
Now, nothing but victory against a Porto side defeated just once so far this season will do on Wednesday if Chelsea are to be part of the Champions League’s knockout stages .
Yet Mourinho – bullish as ever – remains adamant that owner Roman Abramovich will not be carried away with the view that a change is needed to prevent the club’s house of cards from collapsing.
“I don’t think the owner is a person to change with the wind,” said the Chelsea boss at his Tuesday press conference. “I think I’ve done lots of good things in this club for the owner to know the quality that I have.
“If the owner shows me that belief twice – once when he brought me back to the club, the second time when he gave me a new contract for four years – I don’t think he is a person to change with the wind.
“I know the wind of the results is an important wind. I know this wind is strong, because the results in the Premier League are really bad . But I think the owner knows who I am and what I give to the club.
“The owner believes that I am the right person to do the job.”
So too does Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson, who warned Abramovich on Tuesday that he would be a fool to dispense with the services of the most successful manager in Chelsea’s history.
In thanking his former adversary for those words of supprt, Mourinho hinted that he had reached a point in his career in which he is discovering who his true friends really are.
“It’s a difference between the friends and the fake friends,” he said. “And the ones who are not even fake friends, are honest, and show immediately their feelings towards you.
“Sir Alex is my friend. Obviously the words are very nice words. I believe he’s not the kind of person who says things just because he likes somebody. During his whole career, he’s shown he’s honest in his analysis, and I thank him.”
The support for Mourinho at Chelsea has also been unequivocal.
So much so that the club delivered an unprecedented vote of confidence in the Portuguese at the start of October, following the club’s defeat to Southampton.
Understandably so, given that the Portuguese signed a new four-year contract in August.
At the time of that public backing, however, Chelsea were 16th. Since then, they have improved just two places.
Promoted, struggling Bournemouth – whose main striker Callum Wilson is out for the season – have scored more Premier League goals than the champions.
Cesc Fabregas has gone missing in midfield. Diego Costa has scored a total of just four goals. Eden Hazard hasn’t scored at all.
And Mourinho has since been forced to scale down the club’s ambitions from a successful title defence to a place in the top four and now the top six.
Even that might be beyond Chelsea with no team in Premier League history having finished higher than eighth with the points they currently have.
The concern behind the scenes is that they are rapidly reaching the stage where the club is bigger than one man.
Assuming they beat Porto, even Mourinho would be unable to defend a ninth Premier League defeat of the season away to leaders Leicester in next Monday’s televised game.
And defeat at home to the Portuguese side would leave Chelsea’s season in ruins even before then.
Participation in the Europa League would be no consolation whatsoever as Mourinho has always maintained that he is a Champions League manager, with Chelsea a Champions League club.
And it is a measure of how far the Londoners have fallen that their boss actually indulged a question about European football’s second-tier competition – the one he derided after predecessor Rafa Benitez’s Blues had triumphed in it three seasons ago.
“I know that, in this moment, it looks as though to win the Europa League might be an easier way to be in the Champions League next season, than to finish in the top four,” said Mourinho. “But there is another possibility, which is to win the Champions League.”
One significant sub-plot will be the motivation of Porto keeper Iker Casillas, who was bombed out of the Real Madrid team by their then-coach Mourinho.
Would they shake hands ahead of this showdown?
“If I shook hands in Porto [after the reverse fixture], why wouldn’t I shake hands tomorrow?” came the reply.
“I’m actually less concerned about Porto this time.
“I have to focus 100% on my squad – who will play, how we will play. Normally, I would be much more worried about a side like Porto, but at the moment I can only think about Chelsea.”
How Champions League Group G stands
|Maccabi Tel Aviv||5||5||1||15||-14|
Chelsea Courtois, Azpilicueta, Terry, Zouma, Ivanovic, Matic, Ramires, Hazard,
Fabregas, Willian, Costa.
Porto Casillas, Pereira, Layun, Marcano, Maicon, Brahimi, Imbula, Neves,
Danilo, Andre Andre, Aboubakar.
Referee — Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey).
Three To Watch
Iker Casillas The goalkeeper’s relationship with Mourinho broke down
irreparably at Real Madrid after he was axed acrimoniously by the Special
One. Now, he has the chance to exact brutal revenge by shutting Chelsea out
of the Champions League – a result that could cost the Portuguese his job.
Giannelli Imbula Linked with Chelsea this time last year, the 23-year-old midfielder only moved to Porto in July but is already being watched by a string of Premier League clubs, including Southampton. The Saints see him as a potential replacement for Victor Wanyama should the Kenyan choose not to sign a new contract.
Ruben Neves The 18-year-old is one of the hottest young talents in Europe, with Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal among the clubs tracking him. Deep-lying midfielder Neves, who is already represented by super-agent Jorge Mendes, is the youngest-ever player to play for Portugal’s Under-21 side and is a regular first-teamer for Porto.