Ahead of our Champions League semi-final second leg with Atletico Madrid tomorrow, Jose Mourinho says every member of his squad has a part to play.
Frank Lampard and John Mikel Obi are suspended for the game, having received yellow cards in Madrid last week, while both Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah are ineligible. They were joined in training today by the injured Petr Cech, and the manager explained the reasoning behind our goalkeeper’s involvement in the session this morning.
‘Obviously his condition doesn’t allow him to play but everybody is ready,’ said Mourinho. ‘That’s the message we wanted to give.
‘Everybody was on the pitch – suspended players, ineligible players, injured players. It’s a very important match for our group. Everybody is together, everybody wants to help, and everybody wants to play.
‘Even the players not in good condition want to play. The message from Petr and from the group was exactly that.’
During the pre-match press conference Mourinho also confirmed Eden Hazard is fit and it is up to our manager whether he starts or not.
One player that will begin the game on the pitch is John Terry, who also spoke to the assorted media. Mourinho had words of praise not just for his skipper but also his defensive-minded colleagues in a side that has kept 16 clean sheets in all competitions in 2014 alone.
‘My captain is playing at the same level he was playing at when I left Chelsea in 2007. It’s as simple as that. Six or seven years later he’s playing again at his best level. It’s fair to say that.
‘It’s also fair to say the people that surround him, on his left and his right, and in front of him, are also playing fantastically. His partnership with Cahill is fantastic and the people that work together in the same areas are doing a very good job.
‘I’m really happy to see a player like him six or seven years later back at the same level. I think he deserves more than what the Champions League has given to him up to now. He lost a few semi-finals in special circumstances. He lost a final in special circumstances. He won a final in special circumstances because he couldn’t play. The Champions League owes him something.
‘He starts tomorrow, of course.’
Like his captain Mourinho has plenty of experience at this stage of the competition. This year is the fifth in a row he has reached the Champions League semi-final but he does not necessarily consider that an advantage ahead of tomorrow night’s second-leg decider.
‘I don’t think my experience is a crucial point. Maybe it helps me to sleep fine tonight but during the game it’s a game, a knockout game, a game of details, a game where maybe one goal will be the difference.
‘It is a game where everybody needs to be at the top level – the players and me. During the 90 minutes the players are more important than the manager. I trust them a lot and that helps me to be calm.’
We come into tomorrow’s match on the back of two hard-working, disciplined performances away to Atletico and Liverpool when excellent results were achieved to further our prospects both at home and abroad. The manager was asked what his approach to the game at Stamford Bridge would be.
‘In this moment football is full of philosophers. It is full of people that understand it much more than me, and it is full of people with fantastic theories and philosophies.
‘The reality is always the reality. The team that doesn’t defend well doesn’t have many chances to win. The team that doesn’t score a lot of goals – and if they also concede a lot of goals – is in trouble. A team without balance is not a team.
‘When Atletico have the ball we have to defend, when we have the ball we have to attack. This is the football that I know. When the opponent has the ball you have to work defensively, you have to be organised. When you have the ball you have to try to play according to your players and according to the qualities of your opponent.
‘When a team plays strategically, and thinks about the qualities of the team and the qualities of the opponent, 10 or 20 or 30 years ago they are a good, intelligent team.
‘In this moment, depending on the coach and the club obviously, the critics speak but that is no problem.’
The manager also explained he had spoken to Brendan Rodgers earlier today, with the dust now settled on our fine win at Anfield.
‘Brendan is somebody I consider my friend. Of course I know his words after the match but I also know his words today. Today he told me “Congratulations for a great victory and a great performance”.
‘Especially because he is somebody I consider a friend, and I like, I prefer to forget the words after the match and keep the words of today. He’s an intelligent guy and I believe that after the match he watched it on video and now he understands what happened.’