Andre Villas-Boas has admitted his Chelsea team are locked in a "negative spiral" of results after last-minute defeat at Bayer Leverkusen left their hopes of reaching the Champions League knockout stages on a knife-edge. The Portuguese's side now require a victory or a goalless draw in their final group game with Valencia to secure qualification.
"[We are in] a negative spiral of results," said the 34-year-old, after late goals from Eren Derdiyok and Arne Friedrich assured the German side of one of the two Group E slots in the last 16. "The team wants to get out of it desperately and the only thing we can do to get out is work harder."
It is the third time in five Champions League games that Chelsea have dropped crucial points after conceding late on, while the Portuguese has also seen his side fall 12 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League thanks to last-gasp defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool.
Villas-Boas attributes that chronic failure to hold out to be a problem with his team's "focus and concentration", something he admits will need to improve if his side are to arrest their slide.
"It is little details that makes a difference," he said. "At the moment the explanation is we need to get the focus and concentration right. If that's what is making the difference, that's what we need. Focus is difficult. We need to train, improve the quality of training, make them concentrate harder – not that we've not been doing that in the past – but that's what we have to do. We need to work to keep our faith and get things right, and get the wins this team deserves."
He admits, though, that his players are suffering mentally after two months in which their season has all but unravelled. "Yes, confidence is low, but they expect the manager to inspire them," he said. "That's my job: to motivate and inspire these people to change our faith. The talent is immense, the work is good. The responsibility is mine. I have to motivate them to get a win against Wolves, and then against Liverpool in the Carling Cup."
Villas-Boas does, at least, have the support of Michael Ballack, the former Chelsea player now with Leverkusen. "Every team has sometimes a difficult moment and Chelsea is in a moment like this now," he said. "I know the players are very competitive and I think they will come back."