Pressure is mounting on Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri after their defeat at home to Manchester United in the FA Cup on Monday.
The holders were beaten 2-0 at Stamford Bridge and chants from Blues fans in the second half were damning, questioning 'Sarri ball', chanting 'sacked in the morning' and jeering the Italian's substitutions.
It was the fifth time the west Londoners have lost in their last 10 games in all competitions - with the Blues failing to score in all of those defeats.
Sarri's side looked lost at times as they were outplayed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United, who took the lead through Ander Herrera before Paul Pogba continued his red-hot start to 2019 by adding another before the interval, both from defensive lapses.
The former Napoli boss looked defeated on the touchline and his decision to replace Cesar Azpilicueta with Davide Zappacosta late on particularly proved unpopular with the home crowd.
Chelsea, currently sixth in the Premier League, are now 5/4 with Sky Bet to finish in the top four this season.
They must now prepare for their Europa League last 32 second leg clash at home to Malmo, where they lead 2-1 on aggregate, before facing Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, just two weeks after losing 6-0 at the Etihad.
Whether Sarri is still in charge by the time Chelsea go to Wembley remains to be seen, but as of Tuesday morning the 60-year-old was expected to take charge of training as normal.
- See what pundits had to say about Sarri and his current situation below...
Former Arsenal man on The Debate...
"Chelsea haven't got the money to do what Pep Guardiola did at Manchester City, to say: 'My full-backs aren't good enough so I'm going to pay £50m for one, £50m for another one.'
"As a Chelsea fan, it looks lazy to me. 'I was manager at Napoli, Jorginho was good for me, I'm going to buy Jorginho. I need a forward, Higuain scored a load of goals for me.'
"People are saying he was successful [at Napoli], he's never won anything in the game. Yeah, he got more points at Napoli, I've never played for a team in my entire life where we'd be happy winning nothing but getting more points. You play to win."
Chelsea's old defender on talkSPORT...
“Of course everybody is going to jump on the substitutions he made, because you can’t do that. You’re losing the game and you bring on a full-back for a full-back? He needed to make a change and bring on a more attacking minded player.
"He’s got to be more critical in his decision making and say, ‘I’ve got to show everyone that I really will do everything to win this game’, but at that point he went safe and playing safe is not going to get you anything.
“Sarri is very stubborn, everybody knows that. He has this way of playing and I think everybody should be stubborn when you’re a manager, but you also have to have common sense and be logical about what works and what doesn’t work.
“This is the FA Cup, it’s arguably one of the biggest cups in the world and it was their trophy, but they aren’t going to win any other trophies this season now.
“Yes, they’re in the EFL Cup final, but they’re playing against Manchester City. He needed to push it all the way to the max in this game. He needed to put Olivier Giroud on and let him and Gonzalo Higuain go up in the last couple of minutes and have Eden Hazard closer to them, or any other player who could score them a goal, but he did not do that.”
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink: 'Worrying times for Chelsea'
Former Chelsea forward on BBC One...
"They've got important matches coming up and they need to pick themselves up. Without the ball they showed no reaction, no hunger to get the ball back. It's all nice with the ball, but they didn't create. Chelsea are in trouble. Something needs to change. The balance in midfield is not right.
"Sarri sticks to his beliefs. That is the system he wants to play, fair enough, but something is not right in that midfield. Chelsea are not creating enough for the strikers."
Premier League-winning striker, who played for Chelsea in 1999-2000, on BBC Radio 5 live...
"This is Maurizio Sarri's last game at Chelsea. The Italian job is over for them. He's done.
"He'll get the sack for numerous reasons - things he's said, that he can't motivate the players, his inability to be able to adapt and change. Why risk him taking charge of a game against Manchester City?
"Sarri-ball is broken. Would the owner fancy getting into the top four with recent performances, with a manager who says he can't motivate his players and says he will let his star man go?
"The Chelsea owner will be thinking, 'Will we get top four? Can I go to the Manchester City game with confidence?' Absolutely not. Is he going to chuck all his eggs in the Europa League basket with a manager who can't motivate his players? No. History tells us the Chelsea owner doesn't mess about."
Former Manchester United defender, now in charge of England Women, on BBC One...
"I don't think they should sack him now. He plays good football, even if it is a little predictable. But Sarri is stubborn and stubbornness can get you the sack. Winning a trophy on Sunday might drag him out of trouble.
"He has brought in four players and needs another four or five and he has to keep Eden Hazard. He needs to bring in quicker players who can play his style of football."
The former Arsenal defender told the BBC...
"If Sarri is reluctant to change the personnel or tactics, or maybe put some young players in, you have to say the owner will look at this and say: 'Where can we go from here?'
"The fans let the players and manager know how they were feeling. The night fizzled out. The tactics... we know what will happen from minute one to minute 90. Sometimes it works. When it doesn't work, they look awful.
"The midfield look terrible without the ball right now. The defence is shell-shocked. They're not scoring goals from midfield. When you're leaking goals and not scoring goals, your confidence is low and the tactics don't really change. There are no positives tonight apart from the work-rate of Hazard.
"Sarri has got some serious thinking to do. The team are not responding to anything he does."
Former Southampton, Celtic and Scotland manager on talkSPORT...
“Can somebody explain to me what ‘Sarri-ball’ is?
“I’ve still not got it yet. Has it just been invented? Is it fake news? It just looks like a 4-3-3 with one sitting midfield player, and the rest just pass the ball to Hazard.
“Wherever he is, it has to go through Jorginho and then somehow you have to get it to Hazard and then you have to stand back and wait for Hazard to do something brilliant, which he has done on many of occasions.
“But if that’s not working, then it doesn’t seem to work at all! This ‘Sarri-ball’ thing, unless somebody can explain to me what it is, I’m not sure about it. I’m not sure what it is.”
Former Manchester United and Leeds midfielder on talkSPORT...
“I can understand the fans’ frustration when you’ve got Giroud and Hudson-Odoi on the bench. He is trying to get away and Chelsea want to keep him, but they still won’t play him!
“At the moment it looks like if you stop Eden Hazard, you stop Chelsea. They don’t seem to have a Plan B. When you’re 2-0 down and you’re bringing on a full-back for a full-back, it doesn’t show a lot of ambition.”
“He is stubborn, Sarri is very, very stubborn,” presenter and former striker Alan Brazil added.
“Is that it, time up? Do you think the owners will decide it’s not working?”
“The EFL Cup final could be a big one, after getting beat by City 6-0 they need a reaction from that. It seems like the manger is upsetting the fans, he’s a little bit two-dimensional with his formation and the way he wants to stick with it and he’s not exactly endearing himself to people. He’s a pretty ruthless boss, Mr Abramovich, and I’m not sure he’ll be putting up with it for much longer.”
Alessandro Del Piero
Former Juventus and Italy striker, defending Sarri before kick-off on Monday, at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Monaco...
"Sarri is a great coach because his teams play so good, but in order to reach that level you need time. You need good understanding between coach, players, club. It is teamwork.
"From my point of view I suggest, of course, to give him time. And when you have a coach that has a clear idea and schematics and understanding of the game in one way specifically, it is definitely easier if he has his own players to show what he wants.
"And to show the game he wants to show. This is the answer at the end of the day. He has Gonzalo Higuain and Jorginho. But that's it. It is not a lot. Some coaches they bought five, six, seven players."
Carabao Cup final odds (via Sky Bet)
- Full-time result: Chelsea - 9/2 | Draw - 10/3 | Man City - 4/7
- To life the trophy: Chelsea - 11/4 | Man City - 1/4
Chelsea face a big decision in the coming days and, with games coming thick and fast, they should probably stick or twist sooner rather than later.
The first question the board must pose - who would come in if they decide to pull the trigger? Zinedine Zidane has been rumoured in recent days but would the former Real Madrid boss come in at this stage of the season? Do they appoint an interim again and wait until the summer?
It would come as no surprise if they were already sounding out potential candidates.
The second question is, would it be a rash decision?
Time is a key thing and whether they can afford to give Sarri longer is another big question. Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp did not get instant results at Man City and Liverpool respectively. Getting a style across does require patience and Sarri was appointed in mid-July, just weeks before the start of the season. The Independent, though, say that Chelsea's players currently feel like they are being overloaded with information and the fact few players have come out in their manager's defence says a lot.
With that in mind, getting rid of Sarri and bringing a new man in before Sunday's Carabao Cup final would surely give Chelsea a better chance of winning the trophy (currently 11/4 to lift it). The players would feel the weight lifted from their shoulders and get the inevitable boost which comes in the aftermath of a managerial departure.
Playing N'Golo Kante out of a position, away from a role in which he was instrumental in winning two Premier League trophies (for Leicester and Chelsea) and the World Cup with France, has been an instrumental error this season with preference to Jorginho. Changes in the centre of the park from a new man on Sunday could see Chelsea reap the benefits.
Modern day football is guilty of acting too rashly, but Chelsea fans turning on Sarri on Monday could be most damning and it is difficult to go back from that.
The Blues privately insist Gianfranco Zola, Sarri's assistant, will not be in caretaker charge for the rest of the season.
However, if Sarri goes, necessity may dictate the former Blues playmaker, who struggled in management with Watford, West Ham and Birmingham, is in charge for at least a short period while a longer-term solution is found.
Making a change is probably inevitable, so acting before the final, with new ideas against a free-flowing Man City side, could give Chelsea hope of winning. That would be harsh on the man who guided them to this stage, but that's football.