Jose Mourinho has been discussing the availability of an injured trio ahead of what he expects to be a very difficult game against Sunderland tomorrow.
The manager reported that Samuel Eto’o had trained with the squad yesterday and was in contention to play at the Stadium of Light. The Cameroonian was injured in last week’s defeat to Basel and was expected to be out for around two weeks, but Mourinho was pleased to announce his recovery was quicker than expected. He also had news on the Brazilian duo of Oscar and David Luiz.
‘Eto’o is back training with the team,’ said Mourinho. ‘I will have to see today but he looks fine. There is a chance he can play tomorrow.
‘Oscar is not in condition to play, but his injury is not a serious one. David Luiz is not training with the team, he is still with the medical department. Let’s see for the weekend. I hope sooner or later I have David so I can rotate a little back at the back, like I can in other positions.’
With a third of the league season now passed, the Portuguese was asked by a member of the press how he felt his side had developed since he took over in the summer.
‘There is a lot of progress to be made,’ the manager reflected.
‘There are things in the job that are not easy, and one of those things is to make the pressure of fighting for the title become something natural, something the players accept in a positive way.
‘Here we have some people that have won the title before but not for quite a long time, and when you don’t win it for quite a long time you forget it.
‘We have other people that have played in clubs that are not used to fighting for titles, it is just about doing fantastically today and not worrying about tomorrow or any big responsibilities.
‘You have to learn how to live with the pressure of trying to be top of the league, how to fight until the last moment, knowing that every detail of every game can make a difference in the end. It’s a process, not something you do with a click.’
Mourinho had words of support for one man who has won it all before, but has been out of the team in recent games.
‘I think Ashley Cole will start one of these two matches, against Sunderland or Stoke,’ the manager reported.
‘When any player that, all his career, normally starts every game doesn’t, naturally they are not the happiest guy in the camp, but Ashley is always professional, always a team player, so he deserves to play.’
A second league game of seven in December takes us to the north-east to face Sunderland, now managed by former Blue Gustavo Poyet. Consecutive home successes, against local rivals Newcastle and title challengers Manchester City, leaves Mourinho in no doubt as to how stern tomorrow’s test will be, in a month that could start outlining which of the six teams the manager thinks can win the title breaks ahead of the rest.
‘Sunderland are better than the number of points they have. The quality of the players is not comparable with some teams that are in that part of the table.
‘I don’t think they can play in a defensive way where they just try to get a point. They have a positive approach because they need to win matches and I think Gustavo’s style is to try to play good football. You can see the way they are trying to play.
‘There is a lot to play for in December and in the beginning of January. After that we can have a look and see if somebody from the six can open a real gap.
‘I don’t think we can speak about favourites. All the six teams are title contenders. This moment until the end of the year is a moment not to decide, but to clarify the situation.’