Luiz Felipe Scolari has responded defiantly to Chelsea’s latest disappointment but knows his side cannot afford another setback when they begin their Christmas program against West Bromwich Albion.
Twice in the last two weeks Chelsea have failed to take the chance to claim top spot in the Premier League after leaders Liverpool slipped up.
And on the most recent occasion — against Everton at Goodison Park — Chelsea suffered the additional blow of having skipper John Terry sent-off, triggering a three-match ban for the England defender.
That means Terry will be absent when Chelsea face the bottom-of-the-table Baggies at Stamford Bridge today and attempt to get their title charge back on course.
With Manchester United away in Japan at the Club World Cup, the past few days presented a golden opportunity to claim a significant advantage over the reigning English champions.
Scolari though showed he was feeling the strain of an inconsistent campaign when he refused to speak after the goalless draw away to Everton, claiming he was too angry to address the issue of Terry’s dismissal.
Instead, the Brazilian waited 24 hours before offering his assessment which was resolutely upbeat.
“The spirit was the spirit I like in my teams,” he said. “If you don’t have the spirit for this competition and the understanding between players, some players helping other players, you never win, not only in football but in life.”
Scolari’s position hasn’t been helped by strenuously denied reports of player unrest at Stamford Bridge and this week goalkeeper Petr Cech spoke out in support of his manager, insisting there were no divisions in the Londoners’ dressing-room.
“Out on the pitch nobody is complaining, nothing is being said,” the Czech international said.
And Didier Drogba appeared to reinforce that sense of unity by declaring his intention to remain at Stamford Bridge, despite his recent role as a substitute with Nicolas Anelka starting up front.
“I am not thinking about leaving Chelsea in the winter market,” Drogba said. “I have a contract here and want to continue,” the Ivory Coast striker said.
But those words will count for little if Chelsea fail to beat a West Brom side who have been lifted by last weekend’s victory over an out-of-form Manchester City.