The players’ condition requires careful management this week with a long journey to and from Turkey quickly followed by a London derby. Jose Mourinho spoke about that subject with the media on Friday afternoon.
The final training session before facing Fulham was held at Stamford Bridge rather than the more usual Cobham location, and it also differed from the norm by being later in the day. This took into consideration many factors including the late return from Istanbul, regulating the time of day the players are working this week, the use of floodlights and avoiding London rush-hour traffic ahead of the squad collecting together on the eve of the game.
It also meant Mourinho’ pre-match press conference was at the Bridge, and given the timing he was unable to give squad fitness news for Saturday’s game.
‘We arrived back from Turkey at 6am in the morning yesterday, we trained yesterday with four or five guys and the rest were doing some recovery, and we haven’t trained today yet so I don’t know the squad yet,’ Mourinho reported.
What the manager was able to confirm is playing a Champions League match on the other side of Europe on Wednesday, followed by a game on Saturday against a team who had no midweek fixture makes it more difficult to beat Fulham.
‘It is basic,’ Mourinho said, ‘and in a world where not many people are honest in the way they analyse things, I have to praise [Fulham manager] Felix Magath because he is the first to say it’s a different match because Chelsea had this special situation with a midweek game so far away.
‘We don’t play Sunday which would be difficult anyway, we play Saturday which is even more difficult, and he knows that because he has experience at this level for many years. I have to praise him because he is honest in his approach.’
Mourinho told reporters he knows Magath for his impressive record as a player and a coach in Germany but has no personal relationship with Fulham’s recent appointment. It is the words this week from someone the Chelsea manager does know very well that he added into the fixture schedule debate.
‘We all prefer to play game after game after game but we all want to do it with conditions to recover, with equal conditions for every team and the sense that no team has a privilege in the fixture choices, and every team in a country has the same privilege to be a little bit protected in relation to European matches. It happens in Portugal, Spain, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Russia, Greece, it is everyone else.
‘Here it makes the players’ job difficult, not the manager. I can have a match every day, it is not a problem for me or the people who make the fixtures because I don’t run and they don’t run.
‘When a player like Frank Lampard, who has a right to speak as he has played an unbelievable number of matches for this club and more than 100 matches for England, and he is not a man who always speaks a lot about his opinions, when a man like him expresses his feelings, I think this country should listen.
‘I didn’t sleep a lot but my legs are fresh from the last match. For players it is different.’
– Click for details of live audio commentary of Fulham v Chelsea.