Such was the pessimism; the atmosphere was already mutinous in the away end ahead of kick-off, with chants for Thiago Silva after his wife called for 'change' at the club.
There were also chants for former owner Roman Abramovich, but they stopped almost as soon as Conor Gallagher opened the scoring in the 11th minute.
Nicolas Jackson headed in a second as confidence began flowing again in a team with an average age of just 22 after Silva, 39, was seemingly dropped.
Fernandez sprinkles stardust
Enzo Fernandez's stunning 25-yard free-kick killed the game for Chelsea. As Mauricio Pochettino said ahead of kick-off, this group has quality and he is just waiting for it to click and for them to show it.
The Argentine World Cup winner has been underwhelming since joining Chelsea but dominated the midfield before providing that moment of magic with a Messi-esque curling set-piece.
His wild celebrations showed what it meant as he took off his shirt and pointed to his name in homage to his international captain and idol, Messi.
It will have heartened those at Chelsea that his agent denied rumours that he wants to leave before kick-off and Fernandez then went on the pitch and starred just moments later.
Malo Gusto, who set up Jackson's header, also deserves great credit for a sensational performance.
Curious case of Thiago Silva
The 39-year-old was left out of the team following his wife's social media outburst.
He may have been rested but a tetchy Pochettino didn't opt for that easy answer in a spiky exchange on ITV when asked why Silva did not start.
"I think I understand the question but I want to be calm because I need to be professional and I always make my decisions because of the professional side," he said.
Pressed for more information, he added tersely: "I think I answered the question.”
Silva’s replacement Benoit Badiashile made a sloppy error early on, but it went unpunished. He then steadied himself and, with his former Monaco team-mate Axel Disasi, improved during the rest of the game.
It looked like Chelsea could look to a future without Silva but Badiashile got injured and the Brazilian came on as a late substitute.
The Blues switched to a back three when the ageing defender came on, which could be a solution to using him more effectively again.
There's plenty of food for thought for Pochettino as Chelsea supporters kept chanting in support of Silva throughout.
Electric Blues attack
Raheem Sterling was another senior player left out as Pochettino sprung a surprise by selecting Jackson, Cole Palmer and Noni Madueke in attack.
The trio kept changing positions as all three had stints as the no9. Gallagher's late runs, flying full-backs and the composed midfield in a fluid attack led to a performance built in Pochettino's image.