Mauricio Pochettino admitted his Chelsea players are falling well short of the targets set for them in pre-season as they seek respite from their sporadic Premier League form at home to Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
Results at Stamford Bridge have been the only bright spot in recent weeks with three straight wins in west London during December, meanwhile fortunes on the road have taken an alarming downturn.
Defeat against Wolves at Molineux on Christmas Eve was their fourth away loss on the spin following reverses at Newcastle, Manchester United and Everton, and has left the team facing the likely prospect of failing to qualify for Europe for a second season.
A Carabao Cup semi-final against Championship side Middlesborough in January could open the door to a possible route into the Europa Conference League, but a current league placing of 10th sees them trailing the top four by 14 points.
Pochettino admitted it is not what he anticipated approaching the midway point of his first Chelsea campaign.
“We’re so far away (from the target),” said the Blues boss. “Our target was to be on the top, even if no one believed us. But in the circumstance, we are fighting for different things.
“We are Chelsea, because our history demands us to be at the top. At the moment, being realistic, we need to increase the way that we compete if we want to win more games.
“We need to compete better than (against Wolves). I think the performance from the beginning of the season has not been bad. We can say it’s very good. But in terms of competing, we are in the bottom. That’s why we are not in a better position in the table.
“In football you need to have the knowledge, the quality, the set-up. But at some point in football in 90 minutes, you need to compete. You need to show in the way you play football. We need to improve there, and that’s about having all the players (fit), spending time with them together.
“We need to finish well, winning the (Palace) game, then to go to Luton (on December 30) and then start the new year with different feelings.”
Pochettino confirmed that Enzo Fernandez will miss the meeting with Roy Hodgson’s side having sat out the loss at Molineux.
Moises Caicedo is likely to return after illness prevented him traveling to Wolves, though Lesley Ugochukwu has a hamstring injury that forced him off on Sunday.
It means Chelsea’s injury woes show no sign of abating.
“The frustration is there, the disappointment,” said Pochettino. “The medical staff are working so hard to anticipate and try to avoid these types of problems.”