André Villas-Boas admitted that Chelsea had lost their way at Stamford Bridge and become anxious when they play there, after they slumped to a third home defeat in four matches and were knocked out of the Carling Cup by Liverpool.
The manager was candid in his post‑match assessment, describing the performance as "not good" and admitting that Liverpool were "superior" and worthy winners. Although he urged patience and understanding for Fernando Torres in the wake of the £50m striker's latest anonymous display, he suggested that Didier Drogba would return in his place for Saturday's Premier League fixture at Newcastle United.
Villas-Boas also admitted that he and the team faced their do-or-die moment next Tuesday, when they play Valencia in the final Champions League group tie. They need a win or a 0-0 draw to avoid what would be a damaging exit. The match is also at Stamford Bridge.
"Away from home, we've been more solid, statistically and as a team," Villas‑Boas said. "That is a fact. At the moment at home, we've just not been good enough. I think we need to get our fans behind us when we play at home. We need to get the emotions right. I know, and you can feel, that Stamford Bridge has become anxious about Chelsea playing at home but we need their full support behind us. That's the only way you can build the atmosphere to take us through this period.
"The Champions League is a competition which is life and death and this standard won't be enough. We need to up the tempo and play that game [against Valencia] with the ultimate desire."
Villas-Boas is pinning his hopes on his players finding form and results during a testing December. If they were to win what he suggested were six-pointers against some of their rivals, they could yet challenge for the Premier League title. He did not have to spell out the consequences of failure, although he did insist that all would not be lost.
"Regarding the Premier League fixtures, for our challenge to be alive, we need to make the most out of the December fixtures," he said. "You know they include Newcastle, Manchester City and Tottenham. If we do that, we'll be back on track. It will have a major impact by the end of December. We recovered two points at the weekend. But for us to continue to challenge, we need to make the most of the December fixtures. That is our challenge.
"In the situation we are in, 10 points behind, it can invert what can happen in the Premier League in four months' time. I'm not a wizard and I won't say what will happen afterwards can't have an impact – the FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League come into play – and March and April can be as decisive as December. But it's a fact, given we play the top teams, that we can put our challenge back on track."
It can be painful to watch Torres on evenings such as this and his impact was measured in the fact that the travelling Liverpool supporters hardly booed him. It was because he hardly touched the ball.
"It must come with confidence and time," Villas-Boas said. "We believe in him and will continue to pursue his individual form. Our task, as technical staff, is to get the best out of a player so if we don't do that we've failed. He faces tough competition. We'll go back to 4-3-3 against Newcastle and he's still going to have to compete. Didier is showing good signs of returning. Fernando has shown that ability before and he can again."