Jose Mourinho addressed the media at Cobham ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Stoke City, with the Chelsea manager reporting he is yet to make a decision on whether Oscar, who picked up an ankle injury against Southampton last Sunday, will play any part.
The Blues boss spoke on a variety of topics, including the type of threat Stoke will pose, the recent form of Eden Hazard and our impending fixture list.
First up, however, he provided some squad news as we prepare to face a side managed by former Chelsea striker Mark Hughes.
‘David Luiz is out, I don’t know when I’ll have him back,’ said Mourinho. ‘[Samuel] Eto’o is fine and back with the group, Oscar is also much better and I have to decide whether to play him or not, but he’s much better.
‘Tomorrow or Wednesday Ashley Cole will play. It’s a position where I have alternatives, I have two players for the same position but it’s logical that I don’t give [Cesar] Azpilicueta four matches without giving Ashley one.’
Hazard produced an outstanding display in our 4-3 win at Sunderland in midweek, netting a brace and supplying the cross from which Frank Lampard scored a first-half equaliser.
Mourinho was delighted with the Belgian’s performance and predicted a bright future for the player when asked just how good he can become.
‘He’s very young and it’s only his second season in the Premier League,’ said the Portuguese.
‘In the Premier League it’s very difficult to perform for an attacking player because the game is so aggressive and defenders are much stronger. Many teams play a very defensive game at the moment, it’s much more physical and the time to rest between games is much shorter.
‘He has fantastic potential and hopefully he goes in the right direction. It’s impossible to always play as he did in the last game but to always play with that same ambition is possible.’
With his side looking to record a third Premier League win in the space of a week at the Britannia Stadium, attention turned to the game itself, and while we conceded three times from set pieces at Sunderland, Mourinho insisted,having watched the goals back, he is not overly concerned.
‘Stoke is difficult, they’re a very physical team and strong at set pieces, but I don’t think we are fragile in that area,’ he explained.
‘We were analysing the three goals at Sunderland and we couldn’t find the real mistake. We could find the rebound, the second ball, the ball that hits somebody and goes in the direction of the opponent. For all three goals we were trying to find defensive positional mistakes in relation to the way we prepared for the game, but there was not one mistake. We know Stoke are strong in that aspect and we have to try to cope.
‘I think sometimes at a certain moment clubs have to care about style of play and the way you sell your product. They did well to change a philosophy that was getting points but not giving a future. ‘They are a bit different, not so much, but they play better football and have kept many things from the past. It will be difficult, that’s for sure.’
It’s been an excellent start to the busiest month of the campaign so far, with the Blues coming from behind to take the three points in each of our last two matches.
Mourinho, though, believes having to make two trips north in the space of a few days is a big test, and with a Champions League game against Steaua Bucharest to come next Wednesday, is mindful of pushing the players too far.
‘It’s like a preparation for the Christmas period,’ he said. ‘After that we have a week with the Capital One Cup when we can make decisions and change the team. Of course, the Premier League is a more important target than the Capital One Cup and in that match for sure we are going to make many changes.
‘This week is a tough week because we started the week on a Sunday, not even a Saturday, against Southampton, and finish on the Saturday. For some clubs they start on a Saturday and end on a Sunday, but for us it’s Sunday and Saturday. Once more, when it comes to fixtures we are always in trouble.
‘The problem is always the same, so in seven days we have three matches, two of them consecutive away, but we have to cope with it by making a big effort. I don’t like to give a day off after a game and before a Champions League game but I’m going to give them a day off on Sunday, I think it’s good for their heads.
‘I like to do recovery from the physiological point of view but I think the mental point of view is more important. They have a free Sunday to disconnect because I think it’s important for them. We have to give everything to try and fight for the points.’
The world news has been dominated by just one story since last night, the death of Nelson Mandela in South Africa.
A minute’s applause will be held at every Premier League ground this weekend, and Mourinho was asked for his thoughts.
‘We are too small to say anything about such a big man,’ he said. ‘I feel too small to make any kind of comment. I stay with my admiration, my respect, with the emotion and importance of that gentleman in world history, but I feel too insignificant to make any comment about such a big person.’
You can listen to live commentary of tomorrow’s game from 3pm on Chelsea TV.