Jose Mourinho says changes will be made for tomorrow’s final Champions League group game, at home to Steaua Bucharest.
The manager was in jovial mood as he spoke to an assortment of domestic and travelling Romanian journalists at his pre-match press conference. He answered questions on a variety of topics, including tomorrow’s opponents, his favourites for the Champions League and the imminent return of Ashley Cole to the starting 11.
The Portuguese began, though, by confirming that he would change the side that lost 3-2 at Stoke on Saturday, with Oscar, David Luiz and Willian all in contention, having trained with the squad today.
‘I’m not going to play the same team as I did in the last match,’ reported Mourinho.
‘I’m going to give a little rest to a couple of players, or three players. We have an important match on Saturday and we play a quarter-final next Tuesday.
‘I don’t want to call it rotation because normally when you say rotate it comes with an idea that the team is weak but that’s not the case.’
One man who Mourinho confirmed will start is Ashley Cole, after a spell out of the side, and the manager insisted the left-back is as committed to the cause as ever.
‘I know Ashley well. It’s easy to feel that he is not happy or not comfortable with his situation, but the way he trains and the way he behaves is super professional, as always.
‘When he is on the bench behind me I can feel he is there to win, even if he is not on the pitch. He is fine, and tomorrow he will show that. He will always be a good player and with the evolution of our season he will play matches.’
The travelling press were keen to find out what our manager made of the Romanian champions, who travel to London knowing they cannot finish anywhere but bottom in Group E.
‘I read some words from the Steaua coach a couple of days ago,’ Mourinho said. ‘He was saying he was coming here with his best team and his best players to try to finish the group in the best possible way. I would do the same in his position.
‘Steaua have been very important in the group phase. They took four points away from Basel because they drew twice against them. They also drew against Schalke. They have got three draws in the Champions League and they are going to try again to not lose tomorrow.’
Our manager is adamant nothing less than a victory would please him, and not simply because three points would guarantee us top spot in the group.
‘We have to win not just to finish first, but also to have the good feeling of winning at home and finishing with 12 points,’ Mourinho explained.
‘I don’t want to get a point tomorrow which, because of the other result, means we are first. I want to have the feeling of winning the game.’
With UEFA providing a translator for all press conferences in European competition, the man charged with replicating Mourinho’s words in Romanian was occasionally given a tricky task by the length of our manager’s responses. To reward the translator’s persistence, Mourinho gave him his training top at the end of the conference, but not before he had given his verdict on the favourites for this year’s competition.
‘I think our chances this season, which is my first season, are not comparable with the chances other clubs have,’ reckoned Mourinho.
‘We have reached the last 16, and if we reach the quarter-finals, which is the next step, every team has a chance to win it. But in my analysis I think we are not one of the favourites to win the competition.
‘Bayern, Barcelona and Real Madrid are the three teams that are clearly, in terms of potential and responsibilities, in front.
‘We are still in the first phase. In the last 16 we will find some difficult match-ups because some important teams will finish second, such as Man City, Dortmund and Juventus. They can beat any of the first teams. As always, it’s an interesting competition.’
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