Two games and two weeks since our defeat at Aston Villa, Jose Mourinho has been discussing his side’s strong reaction to that setback and the importance of starting games quickly.
In our previous two outings a pair of clinically-taken Samuel Eto’o goals in the opening five minutes set the tone for comfortable home successes against Galatasaray and Arsenal. On both occasions, according to our manager, it was a prepared plan that paid dividends, particularly in the wake of our previous games against Fulham, Tottenham and Aston Villa when our start had not been so fast.
‘The reaction from the team (to the loss at Villa) was good because the team is playing well,’ said Mourinho. ‘The fact we played in the Champions League three days later was even better.
‘We have been trying to dominate from the very start. Against Galatasaray we tried to do that because we felt it was important to show them the match would be difficult for them. At 1-1 you can approach the game in a different way – to wait and see what happens – but we decided that we wanted to go exactly the other way and play like we have to change the result, play to score and show them they have no chance. We were successful.
‘Against Arsenal we tried to do the same. We understood they are a team that like to have the ball, like to play without aggression, like to play a comfortable match and use their fantastic technical conditions.
‘We decided to go high, press them, try to recover the ball in difficult areas and not make them feel comfortable with the ball. We tried to do that and it worked well. Sometimes it doesn’t.’
Mourinho would no doubt love another strong beginning in today’s game at Crystal Palace, which pits him against Tony Pulis for the second time. Their first meeting was just three weeks into the Eagles manager’s reign, and since that 2-1 loss at Stamford Bridge in December Pulis has successfully steered his side out of the relegation zone, though there is still work to be done to guarantee their safety.
Mourinho has been impressed by what he has seen from Palace since the new manager arrived, suggesting Pulis as a possible candidate for the Manager of the Year award if he can keep the south London side up.
‘He started with a team in a very difficult position. He didn’t start in the beginning of the season; he started a few months after when the team was bottom of the league. I don’t know if it’s true but when you read the papers and you listen to things it looks like other managers were approached, and many of them didn’t want to accept because the feeling was this team has no quality to stay in Premier League so it’s a lost battle.
‘He went there, step by step he changed the team, he used the market to bring the profile of players he wants, and his team is there. They need points, but they are there and his work was very good.
‘The normal tendency is to give the Manager of the Year award to the champion, and there is only one champion. But if Crystal Palace stay in the Premier League he can feel himself a champion, he won his challenge so why not?’