Norwich City-Chelsea Preview
Time is running out for Chelsea to turn around their season in the Premier League, and the clock may also be ticking on Jose Mourinho's second spell with the club.
With the embattled manager back on the bench, Chelsea emerge from the international break looking to avoid losing four straight league matches for the first time in more than 17 years Saturday against Norwich City.
Chelsea (3-2-7) are in disarray only six months removed from winning the Premier League by eight points. They've collapsed into 16th in the table, one point behind promoted Norwich (3-3-6) for 15th.
While it's unheard of for Chelsea to even be considered a relegation candidate in November, the club's abysmal start includes a stunning 2-1-3 record at Stamford Bridge after losing only once in their previous 46 matches there (37-8-1). Mourinho has lost three of his last five league matches on the London grounds after dropping just one of his first 99 in charge (76-22-1).
Chelsea have also been outscored 6-2 while losing three league straight matches overall. They haven't lost four in a row since Feb. 8-March 8, 1998 - a stretch that included the firing of Ruud Gullit.
Continued struggles could result in the same fate for Mourinho, but the team is backing the popular boss.
"We're behind the manager and you can see from our performances we are fighting for one another and for everybody involved," goalkeeper Asmir Begovic told the club's official website. "From our point of view, we think he's the right man and he's obviously somebody we respect and work hard for."
Begovic is confident Chelsea is capable of a turnaround, despite falling 1-0 at Stoke City on Nov. 7 while Mourinho served a one-match ban for his public criticism of officials last month.
"When things aren't going your way, they're not going your way and you just get punished for little bits and pieces," he said. "We just have to keep playing like we are and it eventually has to turn."
A reliable source of goals would surely help. Diego Costa, Ramires and Willian are tied for the club lead with two goals apiece. However, Diego Costa's 20 in 26 matches led Chelsea last season. He has no goals and only one shot on target over the last three games.
The Blues are 6-2-0 in their last eight meeting with Norwich (3-3-6), but the teams settled for a scoreless draw in London on May 4.
The Canaries snapped their four-game losing streak with a 1-0 victory over Swansea City on Nov. 7.
"Over the past few weeks we've felt performances have been OK in certain games, but you have to collect points," said midfielder Jonny Howson, who scored his first Premier League goal of the season against the Swans. "It didn't matter how we did it, we just knew we had to get a result."
That hasn't happened as the visitors - Norwich are 0-2-3 in its last five, getting outscored 8-3 while losing the past two.
Nathan Redmond has scored three of his four goals away from Carrow Road. The midfielder attempts to build on that against Chelsea's leaky defense, which has surrendered 23 goals to rank only better than Sunderland (26) and Bournemouth (25).