Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas and Inter Milan coach Claudio Ranieri, himself a former Stamford Bridge manager, will be looking to the Champions League football this week to boost their chances of keeping their jobs.
Villas-Boas has been described as a ‘dead man walking' by Ranieri and he should know — he was one of several high-profile managers to fall victim to the whims of Chelsea's billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.
Ranieri is probably even under more threat at Inter as his side has lost five of its last six games, including being knocked out of the Italian Cup of which it was the holder, and faces a testing trip to French side Marseille on Wednesday.
Villas-Boas arguably faces the tougher midweek challenge as Chelsea travels to Serie A outfit Napoli — which ousted Inter from the Italian Cup — on Tuesday on the back of a dire 1-1 home draw with Championship side Birmingham in the FA Cup.
However, the indefatigable Portuguese handler, faced with an increasing band of critics as well as a split dressing room, insists his job is safe.
Villas-Boas accepts that the Napoli game is a tough task, coming so soon after the Birmingham draw and a Premier League defeat by Everton the preceding weekend which leaves it battling to assure Champions League football next season.
“The situation is we don't have enough good results for us to feel a bit strong,” said Villas-Boas, who is anxiously awaiting fitness tests on John Terry and fellow England defender Ashley Cole.
“But we are still in these competitions (FA Cup and Champions League) and will continue to push for them.
“It will be a difficult game against Napoli, but we have shown in the group games we can overcome adversity.”
Napoli, which saw off the challenge of big-spending Manchester City in its group, goes into the match in great spirits having beaten Fiorentina 3-0 away on Friday to move above Inter in the table.
Uruguayan star Edinson Cavani, who scored twice, believes a repeat of that would be enough against Chelsea.
Ranieri, whose side has conceded 15 goals and scored just four in its last six matches, admits that Inter has hit another rough patch just when the business end of the season is approaching. His Marseille counterpart Didier Deschamps admitted that his side's 1-1 draw against mid-table Valenciennes was not terrific preparation.
The other two second round matches see Real Madrid travels to Moscow to take on CSKA on Tuesday and Swiss outsider Basel — which progressed at the expense of Manchester United from the group stage — hosts Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
Real Madrid is coming to snow-covered Moscow primed to extend its winning streak in this year's Champions League.
The fixtures: Second round: First leg: On Tuesday: At Moscow: CSKA Moscow vs Real Madrid. At Naples: Napoli vs Chelsea.
On Wednesday: At Basel: FC Basel vs Bayern Munich. At Marseille: Marseille vs Inter Milan. — AFP