Jose Mourinho has confirmed he is likely to start teenager Ruben Loftus-Cheek when Chelsea return to Premier League action after the international break.
Last season's champions have endured a disastrous start to the 2015-16 campaign and were beaten 2-1 at home by Southampton on Saturday, their fourth defeat from eight league matches.
Mourinho had previously flagged the possibility of dropping some of Chelsea's underperforming stars in favour of the youth team's brightest talents if results did not improve.
And with hopes of mounting a meaningful title defence now in serious danger, the Portuguese manager has indicated 19-year-old midfielder Loftus-Cheek could feature from kick-off at home to Aston Villa on October 17.
"Ruben, (Nemanja) Matic, Ramires, (Cesc) Fabregas - who can cope better with the pressure? I know Fabregas for sure but maybe the situation is so negative for us that maybe now a young player feels less pressure than when the team is top of the league fighting for a victory to be champions," Mourinho said.
"Clearly it is time not to play four, five or six kids because also some of them are not ready. But I think Ruben is a case where he is one who is more ready so if everything goes normal during these two weeks, yes, he is a player to start the next game.
"I am not saying it is a young player to save the season. I think it is a good moment to do it. My senior players won the title for me also last season but it is easy to see some are in difficulties. I was never afraid of responsibilities and I have to persuade Ruben not to feel the pressure because if somebody should feel pressure he is the last."
While at least one established player must make way for the introduction of Loftus-Cheek, Mourinho insists his championship-winning squad owe it to themselves to remain united during what is one of the club's worst periods under billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.
"Three months ago we were all together in the bus with the cups," he said.
"So it is time for us to be together now at the bottom of the league."
Finally, Mourinho explained his unpopular decision to withdraw goalscorer Willian in the 64th minute, claiming the Brazilian attacking midfielder was unwell at the break.
"The supporters, when they booed the Willian decision, I would do the same as them if I didn't know that Willian was ill and vomiting in the dressing room at half-time and the doctor said immediately it would be very difficult for him to carry on, if he did he would be in trouble," he said.
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