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Chelsea players couldn't cope with pressure of being champions - Ivanovic

Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic has revealed that the players were not able to deal with the pressure of being champions this season.

The Blues have failed miserably to defend their Premier League title and sit in 10th place in the table -- 18 points off leaders Leicester -- having won just 10 of their 28 games to date.

Jose Mourinho paid for that run with his job as he left the club in December and Guus Hiddink took over in an interim role. However, Ivanovic admitted that it was the players who struggled to cope and are the ones to blame for their poor form.

"Jose told us the hardest season in football is the year after you win because everyone else has extra motivation," he told The Independent. "We lost control of our game, of our minds. We didn't know what was going wrong around us.

"He [Mourinho] did not change anything. He was the same. I think, player by player, we could not deal with the pressure of what being champions of England means."

Mourinho may have left, but Ivanovic insists that's just the nature of football and denied that the problems at the club were down to the Portuguese.

"Football is all about players," he said. "The managers are not on the pitch. It is 11 against 11, simple as that. The players are more responsible for that situation than the manager.

"It is difficult in football to change halfway through the season 25 players. But I think at this club, if [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich could have, he would have changed all of us as well. It is difficult to say it is only one guy's responsibility."

Results under Hiddink have improved and the Blues take on Stoke this weekend having not lost in the 12 Premier League games since the Dutchman took over.

"We had Jose as a shield in front of us, to protect us, to be criticised first," Ivanovic added. "Changing the manager woke us all up, and scared us, and now we think we cannot blame someone else, it is only us, and we have to start winning games, which is the aim of the club.

"The only people who can change the situation are the players. Now we are doing well and we are trying everything to save the season."

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