Jose Mourinho is confident Oscar can reproduce the type of form which saw him shine during the opening weeks of the campaign when we entertain Everton at lunchtime today.
The Brazilian caught the eye with a string of dazzling performances during the first half of the season, scoring crucial goals against the likes of Hull City, Norwich City and West Ham United.
Now in his second season at Stamford Bridge and, fitness permitting, a regular in the side, it’s easy to forget Oscar is only 22. Mourinho feels he may have suffered from a packed schedule in recent weeks, but after playing just 19 minutes of our FA Cup defeat at Manchester City and having had no midweek fixture, our number 11 could have an important role to play against Roberto Martinez’s side.
‘He’s a young guy, he’s not a naturally physical young man and he suffers with the accumulation of matches,’ said the Portuguese. ‘He’s a kid, Oscar is the kind of guy where the talent is there all the time but the physical, top condition to express the quality he has is not always there, so we have to take care of him.
‘I can imagine him at 25 or 26 years old, we all can, but at the moment it’s different, he’s a young guy. We understand each other very well and we speak the same language which makes it even easier.
‘He’s performing well for us; maybe in the last couple of matches he wasn’t the same because at the beginning of the season he was the best player in the team. He was the player that was really making a difference in the first three or four months.
‘At this moment he’s not being a match-winner or scoring goals but he’s not playing badly. There are no problems. To play against West Brom away, with the conditions we had, it wasn’t the best situation for him to be at the top of his game, but he’s a fantastic player. He plays today and hopefully he plays well.’
Today’s game precedes our return to Champions League action next Wednesday, a difficult assignment against Galatasaray in Istanbul.
Having won the trophy on two separate occasions – with Porto and Inter – Mourinho is well aware of the significance of the tournament in relation to the development of players.
‘Champions League is something which is very important for my players to have big experience, especially the younger players because they’ve never played a knockout game in the Champions League, that’s another part of their evolution,’ he said.
‘Do we want to try to win against Galatasaray? Yes, of course, but the priority is to finish in the Champions League positions, which is very difficult.’
With our two most recent acquisitions, Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah, ineligible to take part in this season’s Champions League, the Blues boss expects to involve the duo over the course of the next two league matches.
‘They don’t play against Galatasaray so it’s normal for the matches before and after Galatasaray that they will be in better condition than the other players,’ he said.
‘It’s normal they can play against Everton and Fulham because during the week they won’t have to play.’
With a number of players currently out on loan, inevitably some tough decisions will need to be made at the end of the season with regards to their futures.
Thibaut Courtois continues to impress at Atletico Madrid and Mourinho feels we are strong in the goalkeeping department. He also acknowledged the recent displays of a young striker currently plying his trade elsewhere.
‘A big problem is when you don’t have quality players,’ said the Blues boss. ‘If you don’t have quality players you are in trouble, if you have quality players that’s a good thing.
‘Chelsea, at this moment, have Petr Cech, Courtois and [Mark] Schwarzer with total guarantees, as well as a few young goalkeepers, so we are in a good condition.
‘To give you an easy name to look at, Patrick Bamford was scoring goals in League One and now he’s scoring goals in the Championship, so who knows if he can also score goals in the Premier League.’
– Chelsea TV’s Pre-match at the Bridge show from 11.45am – 12.45pm will be free to view for Sky Digital customers on channel 421.