Branislav Ivanovic says Chelsea must show more character in their remaining games if they are to salvage something from their sorry season.
His club's chances of winning any silverware could be over within a week as they take on Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-finals at Old Trafford on Sunday and then have to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit against Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League last 16 on Thursday.
Rafael Benitez's side dropped out of the running for the Premier League title long ago and now trail leaders United by 19 points. They have lost seven of 29 games in all competitions under the interim manager and Ivanovic has insisted the players must rediscover their fighting spirit before it's too late.
"We have to be honest with each other, look in the mirror and see that a lot of things at the moment are not going how we want. We have to be strong, stay together and try to finish the season at the highest level," he said. "We are not at the same level that we know. This is being realistic and we have to change this quickly because games are passing us by.
"It's very difficult to say [why the level has dropped]. It's not the time, we have to look forward and try to change the situation, to believe there can be a better end to the season."
Asked if Chelsea were running out of time to save their season, he said: "Yes. If we want to change it we have to show more character, play as a team, have a fighting spirit as a team. One thing is more important than any other: to play every game as a final. We must play as a team, to try to win every game. The supporters didn't expect us to be in this situation this year.
"We are top professionals. This team was in the same situation last season and we finished well [by winning the Champions League and FA Cup]. We must have the power to try and change everything. But every game now is going to be more difficult."
As far as Ivanovic is concerned, playing Sir Alex Ferguson's side just a few days after their controversial exit to Real Madrid in the Champions League could not make the FA Cup tie any tougher for Chelsea.
"When you go out of the biggest completion in that way, it must be disappointing. They will be more motivated because of that and we have to be ready for that," he said.
"We know to expect a very hard game; they will push for sure from the first minute and we have to be ready. It is going to be one of our biggest challenges of the season.
"We are disappointed about our result in Steaua and have to be mentally ready because we've had two days less to prepare."
Benitez is expected to recall Ramires and Victor Moses after they were rested for the trip to Bucharest, while Demba Ba could also return in place of Fernando Torres, having been ineligible for the Europa League defeat in Bucharest two days ago.Reuse content