By Chelsea correspondent Tony Hughes

Andy Carroll is convinced that Chelsea are genuine candidates to be relegated this season.

The West Ham striker has become the first elite player to voice the unthinkable, that the Premier League champions could be playing in the second tier of English football next season.

Jose Mourinho’s team are marooned in 16th place in the Premier League table, just one point above the relegation zone.

Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat at Leicester on Monday night was their ninth league defeat of a wretched season, from just 16 matches played.

Carroll said that the possibility of the champions being relegated to the second tier should not be ruled out.

“It is tough to actually realise that they are such a good team, with quality players, and who spent so much money on those players – they just can’t string a pass together at the minute,” Carroll told Sky Sports.

“It is hard to think Chelsea could be in the bottom three at the end of the season. But the way they are going, I don’t see why they can’t get relegated. I think it’s on the cards.”

Mourinho’s future is on the agenda once again after Monday’s defeat at Leicester. As reported by Football Insider, Chelsea chiefs have held talks about whether to sack the Portugese in the wake of the club’s staggering decline.