Andre Villas-Boas accepts UEFA Champions League oblivion beckons if Chelsea are unable to improve on last night's feeble outing in the League Cup. The Blues' chase for silverware suffered a setback as they exited the competition due to a 2-0 defeat by Liverpool, which was their third loss in four games. Just as worryingly for Villas-Boas, it was also the third time they had succumbed at Stamford Bridge in four matches.
It does not bode well for next Tuesday's critical Champions League showdown with Valencia, when defeat or the failure to keep a clean sheet in west London will result in the unthinkable. For a club that covets success in Europe above all else, competing in the UEFA Europa League would be an awakening experience.
Such an outcome could spell the end of Villas-Boas's reign at Stamford Bridge, and the Portuguese knows a repeat of last night's display is unacceptable.
"The Champions League is a competition that is life and death, and this standard won't be enough," he said. "We will need to up the tempo and play that game with the ultimate desire."
Next month is shaping up to be a critical one for Chelsea and Villas-Boas, whose future will have been decided by 22 December. The club's Champions League status will have been determined, as will their ability to mount any meaningful challenge for the Premier League title.
Fixtures against top-four sides Newcastle United, at St James' Park on Saturday, Manchester City on 12 December and Tottenham Hotspur three days before Christmas have the capacity to make or break Chelsea's season.
The club sit fifth in the table, ten points adrift of Roberto Mancini's leaders. It is a pivotal month that could yet define Villas-Boas' Chelsea stewardship and the 34-year-old knows he is entering a decisive phase.
"For our Premier League challenge to be alive, we need to make the most of our December fixtures," he said. "If we are able to do that we can get it back on track, not that we can't get back on track after. If we do well in December it will have a major impact.
"We recovered two points on our near opponents when we beat Wolves last weekend, which was good. But for us to challenge for the Premier League we need to make the most of our December fixtures, because we play most of the top teams.
"I'm not a wizard, so I can't say for sure what will happen after December. The FA Cup and Champions League come into play next year, so we don't know what will happen in March and April. But it's a fact that if we get points from December, it will put our challenge back on track."