Chelsea’s under-fire manager, Andre Villas-Boas, has informed the media this week that the festive month of December will be a crucial one for both him and the team. Six Premier League games and one in the Champions League is on the menu in December for Chelsea and the young Portuguese manager will no doubt by writing his wish list to Santa asking for maximum points in the hope that he’ll still be in a job come January.
Villas-Boas has seen his side win just twice in their last nine matches including twice to Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in the space of 10 days. The second of those defeats came this week and ended their Carling Cup chances whilst the league meeting knocked Chelsea out of the top four in to fifth. They have the chance to move back in to the top four on Saturday when they face the team immediately above them, Newcastle United at St James’s Park.
However, Newcastle will ensure that the crucial month of fixtures gets off to a tough start since the Magpies unbeaten at home and have lost just once in the league this season, away to Manchester City and who boast the joint best defences in the league along with Man City. They proved more than a match for Man Utd when they travelled to Old Trafford and held Man Utd to a 1-1 draw, so back on home soil, they will be no pushover for Chelsea in what has become a must win game.
Despite the outcome at Newcastle, it is the following game against Valencia in the Champions League that is even more crucial for Chelsea. To qualify for the knock out stages of that tournament, they must win or earn a goalless draw, a very tall order when low on confidence and against the Spaniards who know that a win or score draw would see them finish above Chelsea in Group E.
Should the unthinkable happen for Villas-Boas and they lose or even draw against Newcastle this weekend and go out of the Champions League next week, then it could be that the 34 year will not be at the helm when they welcome Manchester City to Stamford Bridge. Even qualification in the Champions League may not be enough depending on the outcome of this game, such is the proximity exit door for Villas-Boas, if you are to believe the media and if City hit the form they have shown they’re capable of, then a heavy defeat for the Blues will no doubt be hard to swallow for Abramovich in the “battle of the billionaires”.
If Villas-Boas is still standing by then, they then hit the road to face Wigan and then Spurs away before Christmas before finishing off the year with home games against Fulham and Aston Villa over the Festive period.
It is hard to envisage a scenario whereby Chelsea win all seven games in December given the run of form they have been in and it is equally difficult to envisage Villas-Boas being in a job come the new year and being trusted to add to the £70 million he spent on two players in the Summer with more signings in January if they don’t at least go throughout December without losing. Any defeat over the coming month will result in close scrutiny of the former Porto manager’s tenure and after Steve Bruce became the first managerial casualty of the Premier League season this week, the bookmakers make Villas-Boas the second favoruite at 3/1 to be the next top flight boss to face the chop behind 10/11 market leader, Steve Kean, at Blackburn. As it stands, it is a question of when more than if for both Kean and Villas-Boas, the question is, will the search for the next Chelsea manager begin before the year is out?