Jose Mourinho says we will be targeting all three points away to Schalke on Tuesday night, against a side he considers our strongest opponent in Champions League Group E.
Victory in Bucharest at the beginning of the month improved our continental standing following our opening day defeat at home to Basel, and a win at the Veltins-Arena would put us back in a position of control at the halfway stage.
We arrive in Germany in a good spell of form, with three wins on the bounce in all competitions, Saturday’s 4-1 despatch of Cardiff City the most recent reminder of the Blues’ capabilities.
Mourinho is able to welcome back Andre Schurrle to his squad but remains without Ashley Cole, who did train at Cobham this morning before the squad departed for Germany, the manager opting not to take the opportunity to train at Schalke’s home stadium in Gelsenkirchen, where we played previously in 2003 and 2007.
That meant his pre-match press conference was held in a suite overlooking a runway at Dusseldorf, with the manager explaining he had picked his side but had not yet shared it with the players, disclosing only that John Terry, who was sat alongside him, would start.
‘I know but the players don’t know,’ the Portuguese said. ‘[With] only two days in between matches, I didn’t train tactically for the game so the players don’t know, so it’s a principle I want always to keep. When they don’t know I don’t like to say. I have to make an option for tomorrow – I have to make a choice between David [Luiz] and Gary [Cahill].’
Our hosts will be without key figures in Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Marco Hoger, but Mourinho is adamant they represent our strongest competition for top spot in Group E.
‘It’s difficult for a team to be at maximum power, to play a match without somebody missing through injury or suspension,’ he said. ‘They miss a couple of players, but us too. Ashley Cole is an important player for us and is not playing. That’s not a big deal. A team is a squad, not 11 players, and they have a squad with players to replace.
‘What’s the difference between Farfan and Clemens or Meyer, between Hoger and Neustadter? It’s a good team, a good opponent, and hopefully we can be better than them.
We play now two matches against the strongest opponent in the group, and need points over these two matches. That’s obvious. Tomorrow we have a game and we want to win and are going to try to win.
‘I don’t think it’s yet the time to have the calculator and to be counting the number of points you need to qualify, to be first or second or go to Europa League. I think that comes on the fifth fixture. The third and fourth are fixtures you can play just thinking about the game, trying to win and if not trying to get a point, but basically, to play without that pressure of the calculator. We lost the first at home but won the second away so found a balance.’
Naturally for a conference where there were journalists from Germany, Mourinho was asked about Schurrle, who hit a hat-trick last week for his national side against Sweden.
‘He needs some time to adapt to a different league, a different profile of competition but he is a good player, an open kid who wants to work and to learn, so our hopes are on him. We are happy with the investment in such a young player,’ he answered, before responding to enquiries about another new recruit who has been in goalscoring form, Samuel Eto’o.
‘He needs time, because in his career he played in Spain and Italy, a little bit in Russia, countries and championships different from the Premier League,’ said the manager. ‘Since the first day, he made an impact with the players. Everybody sees the fantastic quality he has in a little bit of time.
‘Cardiff was good for him, not just for the goal but for his contribution. His movement was very good, in the first half when Cardiff was compact and closed he was the one in attacking positions with better movement and participation. It’s the goal that gives him the confidence, the extra motivation he needs, so normally now he is happier. He’s a very good player.’
Eto’o’s contribution at the weekend went beyond his goal, and somewhat inevitably there were questions about the striker’s assist for Eden Hazard’s equaliser, where he dispossessed Bluebirds goalkeeper David Marshall. Mourinho was later sent to the stands by referee Anthony Taylor.
‘If I was in that game and if I was paying for my ticket, I would be worried by the fact every time the ball was out or stopped and our opponent had to put the ball in, it took [an average] of 21.5 seconds,’ he said.
‘That’s a waste of money. You pay your ticket and every time the game stops you have to wait about half a minute. When you multiply that for the number of times the game was stopped, you pay for 90 minutes but you get 55 or 60. For me, that breaks the rules. To score a goal with a hand is to break the rules. To score a goal that was not a goal (where the ball did not cross the line) like happened in Germany last week is not funny. Not anymore the goal that is not a goal, in England But in our time, there was crying in the dressing room. We lost a semi-final in the champions league and the ball didn’t cross the line.
‘Samuel did an intelligent action… in this moment FIFA says it’s a foul, then it’s a foul, but I think Samuel did well. Maybe the referee did wrong, I don’t know, to be fair, but in my opinion that should be allowed, as it was for many years.’