Jose Mourinho felt “betrayed” by his players after defeat at Leicester left them just one point above the Premier League’s bottom three, but he refused to admit Chelsea found themselves in a relegation battle.
The Blues’ dismal defence of the title they lifted last season continued on Monday night with a 2-1 loss – a ninth league reverse of the season leaving Mourinho’s men a massive 20 points behind the table-topping Foxes.
The meeting was in stark contrast to the last clash between the sides at the King Power Stadium at the end of April when a 3-1 win put Chelsea on the brink of the title and left Leicester’s survival hopes in the balance.
As has been the case so far this season, Leicester looked inspired and Chelsea jaded and lacking imagination. But Mourinho remained defiant.
He said: “A relegation battle? No I don’t believe this. We are in the relegation zone – an area in the table. But to be in a battle is to be there for three or four months and I don’t think this will be so.”
Chelsea’s fall from grace is remarkable but Mourinho did offer an explanation.
“One possibility is that I did an amazing job last season and brought the players to a level that is not their level and now they can’t maintain it,” said the Portuguese.
“One of my best qualities is that I can read the game and identify the strengths of the opponent and tell my players what they are. So it is a big frustration to accept the goals because my work was betrayed, if that is the right word.
“I worked four days on this match. I prepared everything related to the opponent. I identified four movements where they scored almost all their goals.
“My players got all that information, you can ask them, they are honest guys who will tell you it is true. But in the situations I identify, we concede the first and second goal. The mistakes were there.”
Mourinho was forced to make a change after half an hour when Eden Hazard appeared to hurt his hip after going to ground under a challenge from Jamie Vardy.
The Chelsea boss said he did not know what the problem was with Hazard, whose form and confidence, as with many of his team-mates, has dipped this season.
”I don’t know what is wrong. The only thing I know is that within 10 seconds he made the decision himself,” said Mourinho.
”He came off and said straight away he couldn’t do it. Then he tried and immediately he came back off.”