Jose Mourinho confirmed in his pre-match press conference this afternoon that Fernando Torres is still injured and therefore won’t feature in tomorrow’s game with West Bromwich Albion. The manager confirmed there are no fresh injury problems following Wednesday night’s win against Schalke, so just Torres and long-term absentee Marco van Ginkel are unavailable for selection.
Understandably, the journalists present were keen to find out Mourinho’s opinion on his opposite number tomorrow, his former number two Steve Clarke, while there was also discussion around Eden Hazard’s week and the team’s excellent response to last Saturday’s setback.
On Torres, the manager hopes that he will be back for our trip to Upton Park in two weeks’ time.
‘Fernando is recovering well. We think normally, if things go the right way, he should be in the condition to be back after the international break.’
There will be a first meeting at managerial level for Mourinho with Steve Clarke, who was assistant manager to the Portuguese between 2004 and 2007. Our manager says it is no surprise how well Clarke, who played 330 times for the Blues, has done since going into management, and as such tomorrow’s encounter with his West Brom side will be a difficult one.
‘Of course I’m very happy to meet him before and after the match,’ Mourinho said. ‘It will not be the same thing to play against Steve than to play against any other manager because he is a special guy in my career. We have stayed in touch but didn’t speak about our jobs directly.
‘He had a very good experience as a player and an assistant manager. He was always very focused and very organised. When he became manager for the first time he was very well prepared and I knew that he would do very well. I am so happy for Steve. He knows that every match he plays I am wishing he will win, but not tomorrow, which is strange.
‘During the match it will be hard for us because he is very good and he organises his team very well, defensively and in counter-attacks. They are always a difficult team – this season we have a simple example of that: they stopped Arsenal to win and they won at Old Trafford.’
Mourinho confirmed that Eden Hazard was not selected against Schalke because he didn’t seek permission for, and then lost his passport on, a trip to France on Sunday. The manager said the case is now closed and the Belgian winger will be back in the squad tomorrow.
‘He reacted well, he apologised to me and to the club. It’s over now. He has the appetite to play because he loves to play football and I didn’t allow him to play the last game. I am happy he is back.
‘Every player knows me, and they know that for me the group is more important than the player, and the group principles are more important than even a football result. He is a good kid, he knows he made a mistake and now the case is over.’
Mourinho finished up by praising his squad for their positive response to the defeat against Newcastle.
‘The result and the performance against Schalke were not spectacular but it was solid, and it comes at the right moment. The team reaction was what I wanted. We didn’t have the best start, but the reaction was very good,’ Mourinho stressed.
‘Every time we lost the ball we had 11 players fighting to recover it quickly, we were not sitting back and waiting for the ball, and when we recovered the ball we were always aggressive and fast. The team went in the same direction that they were going in before Newcastle, when we got good results and we were building the principles of our play.
‘I just want to influence their mentality by making them tougher and stronger, more professional and more ambitious. If they have that right mentality, which they showed against Schalke, it will obviously make them stronger.’