André Villas-Boas must lift a Chelsea dressing room that, according to the new signing Gary Cahill, was "flat" and sickened after they surrendered a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3 with Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
The manager is under pressure to win silverware as he manages a transitional period for the squad and he was paid a training ground visit by the owner Roman Abramovich on Saturday, during which the pair spoke for 20 minutes. Abramovich also addressed the players after the United game.
Abramovich's focus has been on his high court litigation battle with Boris Berezovsky – he is being sued for more than $5bn by his former business associate; Abramovich's fortune is put at $13.4bn. But the hearing ended on 19 January and with Mrs Justice Gloster writing her judgment, Abramovich has been able to concentrate more on his football club.
That might feel ominous for Villas-Boas, whose team sit fourth in the Premier League, 14 points off the title pace and casting nervous glances back at the pack chasing the final Champions League spot. Abramovich has earned a reputation for being a trigger-happy owner, even if he appears content to give Villas-Boas at least until the end of the season. Villas-Boas, who remains in the Champions League and FA Cup, says he accepts the pressure and speculation, and has "no doubts in my mind that I will be here next season".
The visit to Everton on Saturday will be accompanied by an even more intense spotlight than usual after his team found their character called into question following United's comeback, which was sparked by two penalties from Wayne Rooney.
"We had a fantastic start but we have come away with a sickening feeling," Cahill said. "It's like you've lost the game, to be honest. The mood's a bit flat. It was disappointing in the end. At 3-0 up we really should have seen the game off. The two penalties were disappointing. The second one, I didn't think was one at the time. So that was unfortunate."
Cahill described himself as being thrown "in at the deep end". He signed from Bolton Wanderers on 16 January but Sunday was his first football in a Chelsea shirt and his afternoon might have ended prematurely for his challenge on Danny Welbeck, after the United striker had wriggled clear on the edge of the penalty area.
"I felt at the time that I got the ball," Cahill said. "I didn't think it was a penalty. If it was a foul, it was a free-kick anyway so I'm slightly fortunate to get away with that one."