Jose Mourinho is keeping his cards close to his chest when it comes to Chelsea’s game plan for tomorrow’s big Champions League semi-final first leg in Spain.
Coming up against a side he already knows well from the three previous seasons managing Madrid’s other major side, he has characteristically boosted that bank of knowledge by hard study since we were paired with Atletico.
The players have been learning the tactics since Sunday but there is one consideration that the manager has not been spending too long thinking about – the impact of the first leg being away from home with the Stamford Bridge match to follow.
‘It is difficult for a Champions League semi-final to be decided in one game,’ Mourinho pointed out.
‘It happens sometimes but it is difficult to have a result in the first leg that kills the emotion of the second leg.
‘I don’t know if there is an advantage really. I like to play without thinking too much about it being the first leg away or the second leg away. The first game is here and we know Atletico Madrid will do everything to win the game, but it doesn’t matter too much where you play the game.’
Mourinho was speaking at the traditional pre-match media conference, held in view of the pitch at the Vicente Calderon Stadium where he will contest his third Champions League semi-final as Chelsea manager, and his eighth overall. He was asked for his thoughts on his next opponents.
‘I am not here to talk about the qualities of Atletico Madrid,’ he responded.
‘I did that with my players yesterday, I do it today and will do it tomorrow, and it is with my players I have to share my feelings about Atletico. Of course no team arrives in the Champions League semi-final without being a very good team and they are no exception. Atletico is a team that we respect, study and analyse.
‘I have watched Atletico play a lot of times and from the moment we got them in the draw I’ve watched them play with better eyes, and I’ve studied them a lot to try to be ready to make my players understand what Atletico is.’
With Samuel Eto’o out due to a minor knee irritation, there will be a change up front from Saturday’s starting line-up, with Fernando Torres one of the options to take on the striker’s former club.
‘I am not saying that Fernando is going to start, but he never hides,’ said Mourinho, ‘and every day we talk about Spanish football and he is a real Atletico supporter, and I have no doubts that the minutes he is on the pitch tomorrow, he is going to try to do everything for Chelsea like the fantastic professional he is.’
Mourinho was also clear on another point, that with Chelsea the last representative of English football in European competition this season, our semi-final challenge should be the sole focus heading up to Tuesday evening’ game.
‘We are lucky to be involved in the Champions League and we don’t need to think about the Premier League and what is going to happen. We only need to think about the big game tomorrow.
‘If people want to speak about the Premier League now there are 19 other teams in England. Chelsea tomorrow is the Champions League and we are only speaking about the Champions League.
‘It is a Champions League semi-final against a team I know well, and I think every player and every manager wants to play this game.’