John Terry last night warned Chelsea and Roman Abramovich against sacking their manager, Carlo Ancelotti, in an appeal for stability at the club amid their desperate run of results.
Ahead of tonight's Champions League tie against FC Copenhagen, the Chelsea captain issued an unconditional backing for Ancelotti, whose position has become ever more vulnerable during the club's worst run under Abramovich. He also conceded that it was time for the players to take responsibility for a sequence of four wins in 11 Premier League games, results that have left Chelsea 12 points behind the leaders Manchester United.
Terry said: "All the players, everyone involved in the club called for that [stability], and we've got that in Carlo. He's a great guy, a great manager. The players are 100 per cent behind the manager. He's got complete confidence in us, and we do with him.
"It now needs to come. At times we've had players out through injury and we've missed big characters at times, but it's down to myself, Lamps [Frank Lampard] and Didier [Drogba], and the rest of the squad who have a responsibility, to look at their own form and characters and deliver. We've always come out the other end. We aim to stay together as a team and start winning sooner rather than later."
Ancelotti will start with Fernando Torres in attack tonight and is expected once again to leave out Drogba, who started Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round defeat to Everton, in order to accommodate the £50m man. Jose Bosingwa will come back in at right-back for Paulo Ferreira.
Out of the FA Cup and way off pace in the Premier League, Terry said that the club's worst fears were that they would not be able to overhaul Tottenham and Manchester City for the fourth Champions League qualifying place. If Spurs beat Blackpool tonight they will be five points ahead of Chelsea, after the same number of games, should the latter lose to United a week today.
"The worst thing to think about is looking at Spurs and City, and they're playing well and picking up points," Terry said. "It would be disastrous for the football club if we didn't qualify for the Champions League. It's hard to get my head around it now. It's still not over. We've got a small chance [of the title] and we're going to keep fighting. If we lose to United, it could be over. But then we'll have to fight for a top three."
Terry denied "100 per cent" that Chelsea were a spent force with an ageing squad. "I heard this at the end of last year when we went through a bad spell. You get the people saying the squad is past its best, and then we win the Double. No one apologises for the statements they made. We're a year older, but that doesn't take away the quality we have. The manager has brought in two world-class players in Fernando and David [Luiz, ineligible tonight]. We have under-achieved, and want to be higher, but believe we've still got the quality and, with these guys coming in, we can push."
Chelsea's opponents tonight are the runaway leaders of the Danish league by 19 points and drew with Barcelona in their Parken Stadium in November. However, they have not played a competitive match since 7 December because of the Danish league's winter break. The Danes are taking encouragement from the Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk, who beat Roma in Italy last week having not played a competitive game for 70 days.
The temperatures are expected to fall below freezing tonight and, unlike when England played Denmark in the stadium, the club are forbidden by Uefa from closing the roof and pumping in warm air. A defeat for Chelsea, who play the return leg on 16 March, will further increase the pressure on Ancelotti. Yesterday Terry also addressed Ray Wilkins' departure from the club in November and the side's subsequent slump in form.
"I don't think it [the decision] destabilised [Chelsea]. Ray was a massive asset. It was a decision that the owner made. We accepted it and moved on. We can say we missed him, but knew we had to get on with it. Ray is still in a good relationship with the players and manager. He was a big part of this club."