Chelsea look set to spare manager Jose Mourinho the axe before Saturday’s match against Sunderland as the list of potential replacements for the under-fire Portuguese appears to dwindle.
Mourinho took training as usual yesterday despite growing uncertainty over his position following Monday’s 2-1 defeat at Leicester, a result that left the struggling champions one point above the relegation zone.
Owner Roman Abramovich and his lieutenants are believed to have discussed the 52-year-old’s future since then but have so far resisted calls to end Mourinho’s second spell at Stamford Bridge.
That decision was complicated on Wednesday by growing speculation that former Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti, who is out of work and has been tipped as a possible successor, is bound for Bayern Munich.
The Italian, who led Chelsea to a Premier League and FA Cup double in 2010 but was dismissed after a barren following season, is expected to succeed Pep Guardiola in Bavaria at the end of the season.
Guardiola himself is thought to have long interested Abramovich and is tipped to move to England next if, as seems increasingly likely, he declines the offer of a new Bayern contract.
But the sought-after Spaniard has resisted the lure of west London previously and is said to favour taking charge at one of the Manchester clubs, with City the most obvious destination.
Other leading managers to be linked with the Chelsea hot-seat include Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone and Italy coach Antonio Conte, though neither is likely to move mid-season.
Contenders to take charge in the interim, should the club dispense with Mourinho, are Guus Hiddink, the Dutch veteran who performed a similar short-term role in 2009, and former Tottenham boss Juande Ramos.
Hiddink, 69, lifted the FA Cup in his three-month stint but has had little success since and in June was sacked from his position as Holland coach after just 10 games in charge.
Ramos is a surprise name in the mix, given that the Spaniard has not won a trophy in any of his last three jobs – Real Madrid, CSKA Moscow and Dnipro – since leading Spurs to the Carling Cup in 2008.
The 61-year-old is known to the Chelsea hierarchy, however, having managed their now technical director Michael Emenalo when the Nigerian spent a season at Catalan side Lleida in 1997-98.
Mourinho only signed a new contract until 2019 just months ago, shortly after steering the club to a first league title for five years, but has since suffered a dramatic fall from grace.
The Blues have already lost nine top-flight games, have been beaten at home by Crystal Palace, Southampton and Bournemouth, and look all very likely to miss out on Champions League qualification.