BLUES MUST STICK TOGETHER - IVANOVIC
Branislav Ivanovic has urged his Chelsea team-mates to put their personal grievances aside and follow Andre Villas-Boas' orders to the letter.
The Blues' season is in danger of unravelling completely after Tuesday night's crushing 3-1 defeat at Napoli in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie - their fifth match without a victory in all competitions and a 10th failure to win in the last 14 games.
Speculation is rife about dressing-room unrest of the kind that previous Chelsea managers suggested contributed to the loss of their jobs.
The latest reports chronicle a falling-out between Villas-Boas and Ashley Cole, while the manager's relationship with Frank Lampard was also said to have hit a new low.
Both players were described as angry at being left out of the starting XI last night but, asked if Chelsea's squad had to put the team ahead of their own concerns, defender Ivanovic said: "Yes. This is one of the most important moments and we all know that.
"We have to be together with each other and it can help us pass this moment."
Ivanovic, who turned 28 today, added: "These things are always coming out when you're losing.
"What we can all do together is still believe and try to do the right things.
"I don't know what the manager is saying, but it is more about what is happening with Chelsea. That is more important than the relationship between the manager and players.
"The manager is doing his job by deciding who plays and we, as players, have to do our job.
"I think every player thinks like that and tries to make things better."
Despite now having the worst win percentage of any Chelsea manager for almost two decades, Villas-Boas continues to maintain he has the full backing of billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.
Reports claim Rafael Benitez is being considered as an emergency option should Abramovich's patience snap, but Ivanovic told his team-mates to ignore the speculation over Villas-Boas' position.
"I can't say who will stay," he said.
"For us, we have to be more focused on our jobs. We don't have to care about these things. I think it's a hard position, very difficult.
"For us, it's very important to stay together. Our team, our squad is not doing what is expected of us. This is a fact."
Chelsea have now failed to win since captain John Terry was ruled out with a knee injury that looks set to sideline him for a further six weeks.
Ivanovic, who played at right-back last night as David Luiz and Gary Cahill continued their fledgling centre-back partnership, said: "John Terry is one of the most important players for our team. This is a fact.
"He is captain of our club and I would like to see him come back soon, but if he is not able to play, we have to be strong and do everything to not make it feel like he is not here."
He added: "One of the qualities of John Terry is to show character, to show the right things during the difficult moments in the game.
"David and Gary are quite new to the team. They were playing only their third game together so they need time but they can be very good defensively.
"I don't want to protect or defend anybody, but all these things are about the team.
"When we were winning games and doing everything right, all the team were defending and attacking well.
"If we start thinking defenders are for defending and attackers are for scoring, it won't give us good results."
Ivanovic acknowledged Chelsea could forget about becoming only the fourth team to overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit in the Champions League if they repeated last night's defensive horror show.
"I agree," he said. "We can't concede a goal at Stamford Bridge which will kill our confidence."
He added: "This is the hardest moment of my four years here.
"We haven't won a lot of games and our confidence is not in the best way.
"We must do all we can do to do well, we must keep going and be positive. This is the way to pass this critical period.
"If everybody works right, I think we can get a reward for our hard work."
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