Chelsea defender Gary Cahill is fighting for his Stamford Bridge future over the next four months, make no mistake about it.
Cahill's performances over the last two months have not been up the required standard, a situation which forced Blues boss Jose Mourinho to pick Kurt Zouma for big, season-defining matches far quicker than anyone had expected.
Zouma started against Liverpool in the Capital One Cup semi-final and in last weekend's 1-1 draw against Manchester City, which should serve as the wake-up call Cahill needs to work harder and ensure he doesn't become another casualty of Mourinho's ruthless purge of a second spell in West London.
What's the problem with Cahill?
The 29-year-old has more often that not been excellent for Chelsea since swapping Bolton Wanderers for West London in 2012, making a £7 million fee look an absolute snip in the process.
Cahill very quickly struck up a partnership with John Terry, with the Chelsea captain's experience and reading of the game having a positive effect on his new colleague as part of a Blues side that won three cup competitions with that duo in defence.
Terry's excellent reading of the game has allowed Cahill to become a more pro-active defender and that balance worked excellently when combined with the midfield shield of Nemanja Matic during the first-half of the season, until the calamitous 5-3 defeat at White Hart Lane on New Years Day.
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Mistakes have become commonplace
Even before that shocking loss there had been signs of a noticeable malaise in Cahill's game, with a costly missed block against Newcastle United at St James' Park helping to end Chelsea's chances of an improbable unbeaten Premier League campaign.
Cahill's showing at Spurs was a disaster though, put in his place by Spurs flavour of the month Harry Kane and consistently caught out of position at the worst possible moments.
Things have gone from bad to worse for Cahill in January, beaten for pace and sheer speed of thought by Raheem Sterling at Anfield and then caught napping by bold, brave play from Bradford City at the Bridge four days later.
Mourinho finally decided enough was enough after that FA Cup exit at the hands of a League One side, who exposed clear defensive deficiencies by scoring a still astonishing four times against the Premier League leaders.
Zouma was ushered in and impressed against Liverpool and City last week, but don't expect Mourinho's changes in the long-term to stop there.
Terry's magnificent form means he's going nowhere
Cahill must have been acutely aware that the hugely talented Zouma was recruited with the future in mind, but probably thought the Frenchman had his eyes on John Terry's place rather than his own.
Zouma possesses pace, raw power and massive potential to improve, which means if he rises to the challenge of playing more regularly in Chelsea's fight for trophies on three fronts Cahill might become far more of a squad player than he previously envisaged.
Terry's form means he's practically undroppable to boot, with the 34-year-old arguably the best centre-back in the Premier League once again this season even if that's not a popular opinion to print.
Chelsea's captain is an absolute shoe-in for a new one-year contract and continues to maintain a high standard of performance week-in, week-out despite his advancing years, all further ammunition to put Cahill's future at the club under the microscope.
Chelsea are likely already looking for new full-backs
Whether Mourinho cares to admit it or not at this crucial juncture of the season he'll eventually have to go out and find a long-term replacement for his talismanic skipper, which means centre-back is likely to form the focal point of his recruitment drive this summer.
Real Madrid stopper Raphael Varane is a player Mourinho knows very well dating back to his time at the Spanish capital, an imposing young defender that's not been afforded the kind of regular game time he'd like since Mourinho left 18 months ago.
Varane would be an immediate upgrade on Cahill and if things don't change at Madrid will likely be available this summer, which means there's huge pressure on the under-fire Blues star to rediscover top form and very quickly.
Ruthless Mourinho should never be underestimated
If Cahill wants proof of how precarious his position at the club is then the last 72 hours should serve as reason enough for the likeable, solid centre-back to be concerned.
Mourinho made a three-pronged decision to shift his squad in search of Chelsea's first Premier League title in five years, with Mohamed Salah and Andre Schurrle both shipped out to make room for Colombian wing wizard Juan Cuadrado.
This bold move was no one-off for Mourinho, who has also shown hugely popular figures in the Chelsea dressing room such as Juan Mata and David Luiz the exit door because they didn't fit in his plans for the future.
Mourinho is epitome of a pragmatic, modern-day manager, determined to make Financial Fair Play regulations work to his advantage rather than scupper Chelsea's plans to dominate English football over a number of years.
With that in mind don't be surprised if Cahill becomes the latest casualty of Mourinho's tenure, particularly if he doesn't rediscover the kind of dependable streak which made him such a popular part of the Portuguese tactician's plans just a few short months ago.
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