Maurizio Sarri faces a defining week as Chelsea head coach after recent results caused disappointment at the highest levels of the club, sources have told ESPN FC.
Chelsea’s 2-0 home defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup fifth round on Monday was their fifth loss in 12 matches in all competitions in 2019.
There were also signs at Stamford Bridge that fans’ patience with Sarri’s possession-based style has run out.
Sources have told ESPN FC that Chelsea’s next two matches — against Malmo in the second leg of their Europa League round-of-32 tie on Thursday and Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Manchester City — could prove decisive to Sarri’s hopes of surviving in his first season at the club.
Securing a place in next season’s Champions League was always Chelsea’s primary expectation of Sarri, and a shock elimination against Malmo would be seen as a catastrophic setback.
However, that appears to be an unlikely outcome, with the Blues scoring two away goals in a 2-1 win in Sweden last week.
Defeat to City at Wembley need not be fatal to Sarri, but the 6-0 humiliation against Pep Guardiola’s side earlier this month intensified speculation about his job security.
In the wake of that defeat, Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck took the unusual step of following Sarri and his squad to Sweden for the first leg of the Malmo tie, sitting in on the coach’s prematch news conference.
The response of the club hierarchy will again be scrutinised if there are any further setbacks this week.
Following the Carabao Cup final, Chelsea round off February by returning to Premier League action against top-four rivals Tottenham at Stamford Bridge on Feb. 27 before they play local rivals Fulham at Craven Cottage four days later.
If he is still Chelsea head coach by then, Sarri will have to find a way to arrest the slump that has seen his team defeated in three of their last four Premier League matches, dropping to sixth in the table behind Manchester United and Arsenal in the race for Champions League qualification.