First published: 27th October, 2015, 11.55 PM
By Michael Cantillon
Roman Abramovich is faced with a landmark decision on Jose Mourinho’s future, Eden Hazard returns to form and other things we learned from Blues’ League Cup exit after extra time ended Stoke 1 Chelsea 1
Abramovich must decide whether to stick or twist
Whatever the internal Chelsea politics and the views of those who advise the club’s Russian owner, ultimately the decision will come down to one powerful man. Mourinho’s future rests entirely in the hands of Abramovich. That the Portugese is fighting to extend his tenure is not in doubt. This latest disappointment comes after defeats in half the club’s 10 Premier League matches and a less than convincing start to their Champions League campaign. Another defeat this weekend against Liverpool could have severe ramifications for Mourinho. Chelsea publicly backed him three weeks ago and insist that loyalty holds but their season has been unravelling at a dizzying pace. They return to Stoke a week on Saturday but it remains to be seen whether Mourinho will be sat in the away dugout.
Hazard shows promising signs
Yes, he missed the crucial penalty. And, yes, this will undoubtedly dent the confidence of the double-winning Player of the Year. But there were encouraging signs from Eden Hazard, who has suffered as much as anyone from Chelsea’s early season malaise. The brilliant Belgian has struggled to repeat those magical performances of last season and was even dropped for the recent Premier League game against Aston Villa, which provided a rare victory for Mourinho’s team. Tonight, we saw the Hazard of old, however, as he produced a performance of shimmering menace, and tormented Stoke’s defenders at various points. This could be a turning point for the 24-year-old.
Costa suffers another injury
Rushed to hospital with a rib injury after the game, Diego Costa could once again provide some nervous injury bulletins for Chelsea. There remains a nagging suspicion that the ultra-physical Spain international is not perhaps as durable as he could be. Yes, he likes to mix it and puts himself around but he also misses more games than Mourinho and his staff would like. This latest injury may not be too serious but without Costa, Chelsea lack menace and it only emphasises how short of attacking options they really are.
The fans remain behind the manager
Within a minute of kick-off, Chelsea’s 4,712 travelling supporters began chanting Mourinho’s name. The majority of those fans appear desperate for him to turn around the team’s catastrophic start to the season and the Portugese did not have the air of a man clinging on to his job by his fingernails. He even found the time for a cheery wave in the early stages and those chants grew even louder seconds after Loic Remy’s dramatic equaliser. Rightly for the most successful manager in the club’s history, Mourinho’s popularity among the hard core fans endures.