Jose Mourinho is excited at the prospect of a second consecutive London derby in the league, coming just days after we were drawn to face Arsenal in the Capital One Cup.
Speaking at his regular Friday pre-match press conference at a packed Cobham media room, the Portuguese manager also gave an update on both team and injury news ahead of the game at White Hart Lane, as well as looking ahead to our recently arranged cup tie at Arsenal.
We face a Spurs side that have won eight of their nine games in all competitions this season, conceding just once, and Mourinho sees our local rivals as one of a number of clubs that will make this year’s title race so compelling, comparing the current situation with his previous spell in charge.
‘In our time before it was a clear race between Chelsea and Man United. Finally Man City broke that period of blue and red dominance.
‘In this moment the situation is different because the top six – with all the respect to the other teams who are working to be in that group – any one of the six teams can be first, any one of the six teams can be sixth. In my time before that was not possible.
‘That’s the beauty of the league. Instead of people complaining that we have all lost matches and no one of us have 15 points, it’s better like this.
‘I look forward to playing against Tottenham as always. Always big matches, good matches. There is rivalry, it’s one more London derby and I like these matches.
‘I think they are a big contender,’ Mourinho stressed. ‘When I analyse Spurs, they have a much better squad than last season.’
Mourinho refused to be drawn into commenting on his relationship with Andre Villas-Boas, again and again blunting the attending press pack’s queries on the matter. However he did recall facing a former mentor, Louis van Gaal, when his Inter Milan team beat Bayern Munich in Europe’s showpiece game in 2010.
‘I played a Champions League final against a club where the manager was somebody very important in my career, somebody that gave me the chance to grow up and teach me so many things,’ Mourinho recollected. ‘I had to play against him in a Champions League final. I did it in a professional way, he did it in a professional way, and that’s the way you have to do it.
‘I had so many assistants in my career, I was always an open book to all of them. I am trying to do the same now in Chelsea with Chris Jones, Steve Holland, people that are working with me for the first time. I try to be also an open book to the coaches in the Academy. I am an open book, after that if they want to read the book or not, it’s their problem, not my problem.’
Mourinho also gave an update on the anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained by Marco van Ginkel and the hip muscle strained by Ramires in the midweek win at Swindon. On the Dutch midfielder, the Portuguese said:
‘The surgery went well, the doctor is happy with the way the surgery was made. Now he has to wait for a long time. It’s very sad for a kid who was in an important season for his development but that’s football, sometimes it happens. We lose a player for almost the whole season, I think five months, six months, it’s a long time. To be back when the season is hot and the clubs are playing crucial matches, to be back directly for that, we don’t know.
‘The important thing now is only the kid. He is in good hands. We have very good physios here with experience of cruciate ligaments. The kid will be like new, for sure.
‘Ramires is selected for the squad tomorrow because I hope he can play, but the recovery process is going slowly, he didn’t train with the team. We are doing everything for him to play.’
There were more questions for the manager about Juan Mata – influential in our win at Spurs last season – and Mourinho suggested that the Spaniard had done all he could in midweek to feature more in the future.
‘He can be the matchwinner. I liked [his performance at Swindon]. We are speaking, with all the respect, about a team who is two divisions below us, but it doesn’t matter who you play against. His attitude was very, very good. He made a big effort to come in my direction, so when a player makes a big effort to come in my direction the only thing I can do is to go in his direction too.
‘The last match against Fulham he was not selected and I can imagine that from now, if he keeps working that way and adapting to my way of thinking, the football that I want him to play, the natural tendency is the opposite one, to be in the team.’
Following our victory against Swindon we were drawn to face Arsenal in the next round of the Capital One Cup, with the away game arranged today to be played just over 48 hours after a big Premier League match at home to Manchester City. The manager said the fixture’s scheduling would likely give the club’s younger players a chance to impress.
‘I have to make a decision and probably my decision is that the Under-21 team will have a very good experience to play a Capital One Cup game. We play Sunday against Man City, and we play Tuesday against Arsenal.
‘When the people that decide the fixtures play us on a Tuesday after a Sunday match, and Arsenal plays on the Saturday, it’s something I have to accept because I have no other option. But I have to prioritise because the league is more important. Probably it’ll be a good chance for the kids to play a big match.’