Jose Mourinho leads his side into tomorrow night’s game against Schalke looking for the victory that would cement our position at the top of Group E, and the Portuguese has emphasised the significance of the contest, particularly coming so soon after the weekend disappointment at Newcastle.
Our nine-game unbeaten run was ended on Tyneside on Saturday in disappointing fashion, but with his side having won our previous two Champions League encounters, scoring seven goals without reply, there are certainly enough reasons to be optimistic ahead of the meeting with Jens Keller’s side.
The manager’s opinion of his team’s display at St James’s Park hasn’t changed since the weekend, however, and he will be looking for a positive response when we take on the Bundesliga outfit.
‘I’ve had lots of time to watch the game and to reflect on the game,’ he said. ‘I don’t change my opinion; of course the result could have been different, we could have scored when it was 0-0, we hit the post twice, and immediately after the first goal Eto’o had a shot, Willian had a shot and Schurrle at the far post, we had situations. But I don’t want my team to be reactive, this is not the philosophy we are working on, and I’m not happy with the way we played that match, it’s as simple as that.
‘My teams can lose matches, they always have, they have never been unbeatable, Chelsea are the same, but there is losing because the opponent was better than you, or because you were unlucky, like at Goodison Park, and there is losing because you were not the team with the ambition and determination we wanted to be, that’s why I was disappointed.
‘My bad reaction with the players was not after the game, it was at half-time because I was feeling the mentality was not the best. Sometimes, when you win a lot players forget why they’ve won, probably they forgot why they won three, four, or five matches, why they won against Schalke, Arsenal and Man City, they think they won just because they are good.
‘But there are many other ingredients in football matches which make you a consistent winner. I hope they don’t forget why they won a lot of matches and why they lost against Newcastle, if they have that in their mind we are fine.’
The Portuguese said in the wake of Saturday’s defeat that there would be changes made to personnel for tomorrow’s game. He still intends to deliver on that promise, and the match will offer an opportunity for either Samuel Eto’o or Demba Ba in attack with Fernando Torres set to miss out through injury, as he explained.
‘I don’t want people to see the changes I make tomorrow as though someone’s paying for the defeat at Newcastle because that’s not the case,’ he said. ‘I read a game once, twice, or three times and how players performed, and after that you have to make changes, not to punish people, completely far from it, but to try to get the best team to win the game.
‘Fernando has a muscular injury, we have to wait for the scans tomorrow but it’s easy to say he’s out tomorrow and at the weekend, after that is the international break and we’ll have to see if he can recover.
‘Bertrand is injured, just today in training so I cannot say what, but he’s also out of selection.
‘Samuel and Demba, they want to play, they are waiting for opportunities to play so when they have a chance, and they know they will have it now and against West Brom, they know they have in their hands the job to play up front. It’s a good motivation for them and hopefully they can express on the pitch the way they work during the week.’
Three points at Stamford Bridge tomorrow would undoubtedly strengthen our grip on the group, and the manager, up to now, has been delighted with the response of his players after losing our opening game in this season’s competition against Basel.
That match aside, we’ve been successful in every game we’ve played in front of our own fans this campaign, but with the visitors unbeaten in their last seven away from home, it will take a strong performance to ensure back-to-back victories against the German outfit.
‘Their record away is very good, not just in the Bundesliga but also in European competitions, which means they feel much more comfortable playing away than at home,’ explained Mourinho.
‘They are a very physical team which is not our case, I don’t know what they want from the group phase, if they will try everything to finish first or just to finish second and progress in the Champions League.
‘I have to prepare my team for both situations, for if they come here to win the game or if they will come here to play for a point, but the result out in Germany at this moment means nothing.’
While the disappointment of the Newcastle game still undoubtedly lingers, tomorrow’s match provides a perfect opportunity to eradicate it from our system ahead of another home game at the weekend.
Prior to Saturday’s match in the north east, we’d put together a sequence of six successive wins, with strong opposition put to the sword, and Mourinho had some kind words for his young side following an impressive run.
‘I was maybe influenced by the way they’d grown up so fast as a team and the way they played and competed in that week,’ he said. ‘They also coped very well with the pressure when we put ourselves in a difficult position in the Champions League.
‘After that they reacted so well to go and win six crucial points for us, so there was a good reaction to pressure, big matches and good performances, good personality to play a very difficult match against City, good personality to go to Arsenal without many players who are usually playing and be able, not just to win, but to play so well and to be so dominant.’