With no game last week due to the international break, Jose Mourinho was back in front of the media for his Friday press conference at Cobham ahead of our London derby at West Ham United tomorrow evening.
Among other subjects, the Portuguese addressed our away form, as well as the difficulty in preparing for a game with so many players having been away.
Firstly, however, he spoke of squad availability, saying that for one man in particular tomorrow’s game will come a little too soon, although Ashley Cole has recovered from the aggravation to his rib problem which forced him out of England’s defeat to Germany in the second half.
‘Fernando [Torres] is not ready, almost but not yet,’ said the Blues manager. ‘Ashley Cole is selected, he still feels it [rib pain] a little bit, but it’s a situation where he will have pain for quite a bit of time.’
The Blues go into the game looking to maintain a run of being unbeaten against teams from the capital so far this season, although our hosts, who haven’t won a league game at Upton Park since the opening day of the season, are equally in need of the three points – albeit for different reasons.
Only Tottenham Hotspur, however, have kept more clean sheets than the Hammers this season.
‘It will be the same as in every other stadium in the Premier League,’ Mourinho said. ‘Teams can be different and have different philosophies or models of play, but every team is difficult.
‘I have a feeling that many teams in the Premier League are playing very defensive football, thinking about trying to stop the opponent playing and after that seeing what happens. That is producing some good results for some different teams against the considered best teams in the competition.
‘They [West Ham] are defensive and they give difficult matches to the big teams. That’s why everybody is losing points, why no team is dominant, why everybody is losing points but keeping in contact at the top of the table. That’s why this league has emotion every weekend, so I’m expecting a very difficult match.’
The Blues have won only once on the road in the league so far this season, and Mourinho acknowledged the need for an improvement on our travels.
‘We have to do better, we’ve had very difficult matches away, I think our fixtures until now were not the easiest, especially away,’ said the Portuguese.
‘We played already against two title contenders, we played already against Everton and Newcastle, which are always difficult stadiums. I’m not saying teams that fight for the title, but teams that fight immediately for the second block, so we’ve had difficult matches.
‘Of course we want to do better, and we need to get more points from our next five matches away than the first five.’
In light of the news that referee chief Mike Riley telephoned West Brom manager Steve Clarke in order to apologise for the awarding of a late penalty to Ramires in our recent match, Mourinho was eager to get the thoughts of the assembled media on the subject.
When none were forthcoming, he expressed his own views on the matter, and queried whether other managers on the wrong end of controversial decisions in recent weeks have received similar treatment.
‘You read a lot about these possible controversial things, and I’m curious to know if Steve Bruce got a phone call, if Chris Hughton got a phone call, if Laudrup got a phone call,’ said Mourinho.
‘Nobody called me to apologise about the fact that it wasn’t a free-kick when West Brom scored their second goal, nobody apologised to me for the penalty at Everton that would have made it 1-1 for us.
‘I’m curious to know if it was just an isolated phone call. I’m curious to know if people see that as a normal situation, or if this is the start, and from now on it’s going to be the same for everybody. I’m very curious to know, and I’m very curious to know the consequences of it.
‘At least now the referees know one thing: if they make a controversial decision that hypothetically favours Chelsea, they know they are going to be publicly exposed by their boss. They can make mistakes hypothetically favouring other teams but nothing happens.’
Having explained his focus in midweek rested largely on the performances of his own players, rather than the Portugal national team, who secured their place at the World Cup, he went on to speak about the build-up to tomorrow’s game.
‘I don’t like this period, I was 11 days with four players – Bertrand, Azpilicueta, Terry and Ba – and the only thing I know about my players is what I watched,’ he said.
‘I don’t know how they trained, how they rested, what they did in between the first and second matches, I know nothing. I’m not sure about the physical and psychological conditions they arrived back in.
‘For these matches, when they come from national teams, there is always a question mark. But we have to meet, we have to speak and understand that this is an important period, November and December.
‘We play consecutive matches from now, always Chelsea matches in different competitions. We need points, in this moment we are in the Champions League area, we are fourth [in the Premier League], four points from the leaders. We have to try and make the situation better, or at least make sure it doesn’t get any worse.
‘We have to focus on this match, it will be a difficult match for us, it always was during my first time here and I think every team has a hard match there, so we have to be on top of our game if we want a result.’
You can listen to tomorrow’s game in full with Chelsea TV’s live match commentary service. Kick-off at Upton Park is at 5.30pm.