Reflecting on defeat in the opening group game of this season’s Champions League, Jose Mourinho looked towards victories in the coming away games plus work in training as the remedy for recent results.
In the European campaign it is taken as read that six points are needed from home games against Schalke and Steaua Bucharest, but whereas a team usually hopes for a few additional points from matches abroad, there is less margin for error remaining after the surprise 2-1 defeat against Basel.
There were also aspects in Wednesday night’s game at the Bridge, coming on the back of defeat at Everton on Saturday, that highlight areas for improvement…
‘We lost three points that we must get somewhere else – at Basel, Schalke or Bucahrest, or all of them or some of them,’ said Mourinho.
‘The objective of finishing top two in the group stage and to go to the next phase is an objective that is not lost, far from it, and it is an objective that we are going to fight for. It is an objective that I believe very much that we are going to achieve.
‘In the first half we had a big percentage of the ball. In a short period we had corner after corner after corner, but we didn’t create. Basel were very compact, they defended with everybody behind and they closed everything when they are normally an attacking team, but in the first half we did nothing really to score the goal. When we scored and went to the half-time winning 1-0, I think normally the score would be 0-0.
‘In the second half in our best period when we had more space to play, we hit the woodwork and had two on-target efforts deflected wide, Basel scored the goal. After that their second goal is difficult to accept because we work a lot on the organisation at defensive set pieces and the header was in a position where we have players defending that zone, because we defend mixed zonal and man-to-man, and we have two players defending in that zone plus the man that was marking the scorer Streller. Three players made a mistake and we were punished because of that.’
Mourinho said he is the one who takes the responsibility for defeats so, unlike in victory, he doesn’t like to talk about which players performed better than others, but asked specifically about debutant Willian and home debutant Samuel Eto, he said…
‘In a simple sentence, William had a positive game.
‘Samuel maybe lacked sharpness and this doesn’t surprise really when you are some years in a place that doesn’t motivate you and you are out of the big stage, maybe you’re there not for the right reasons and you lose huger and appetite. Now he has that back, he has that motivation, he wants to succeed and play and is happy to be at this level.
‘He is participating a lot in the collective game. For the sharpness and the click to score, we have to wait but he is a great player and he will score goals. I am happy with these three strikers for the rest of the season. They are good players and professionals, and try to give their best to the team and the happy moment will arrive.’
On the team not being able to follow up the defeat at Everton at the weekend with a better result…
‘The team is not one with maturity and personality to face the difficult moments in the game. Everton scored in the last minute of the first half and after that we were struggling a little bit despite dominating the game.
‘Today when the first negative moment which was the equaliser arrived, the team shakes a little. But the only thing you can do is work.
‘We go home sad, the supports go home sad, but tomorrow morning we wake up and go training and we have two days to prepare the next match. This is the only way I know in football, to work hard, believe in what you do and each other, be critical inside our group to resolve things but stick together and try against Fulham to get the result that wakes up the team for a smile, and in the next Champions League match we have to try to recover the three points.’