Jose Mourinho conducted his penultimate pre-match press conference of the season at Cobham this afternoon [Friday], with the Blues boss explaining why Sunday’s game against relegation-threatened Norwich City will ask serious questions of his players.
There was standing room only when the Portuguese entered the press room at the club’s training ground, the assembled media packed in to hear the thoughts of Mourinho as the title race, following our win at Anfield last Sunday, enters a critical phase.
Mathematically, it remains possible for the Blues to win the title, although we are reliant on both Liverpool and Manchester City to suffer a defeat, while we need to take maximum points.
For Mourinho, however, there are plenty of reasons to ensure we bring the curtain down on our campaign in a positive manner.
‘They came back like they have to, obviously not jumping but with the feeling they had a good Champions League campaign,’ he said when pressed on how the mood was in the camp following our defeat to Atletico Madrid.
‘They did everything they could, in football and life you have to react to disappointments. Today we tried to build a training session where they could recover some smiles, happiness and good feelings because we have two more matches to play and we have to do it in a professional way to finish the season with the feeling of victory.
‘Imagine if we are not champions because we don’t win these two matches, it wouldn’t be a good feeling for the players. What we have to do is win both games, we’re playing against two teams who desperately need the three points – Norwich and Cardiff.
‘We also need the points to guarantee third and a Champions League spot next season. It’s the last match at home and the fans, with the support they’ve given us this season, deserve us to finish our campaign at home with a victory.’
The manager acknowledges that our 2-0 win at Liverpool, coupled with Manchester City’s victory by the same margin at Crystal Palace last Sunday, has left Manuel Pellegrini’s side in the driving seat.
‘At this moment they have three matches to win to be champions, but you never know,’ he said.
‘The Premier League is the top of the world in terms of championships and to have a game in hand three days before the last game of the season is something amazing, but it is what it is.
‘If they win three matches they are champions. If they lose any points and Liverpool win both matches Liverpool are champions, so it’s in their hands.’
Assessing the campaign as a whole, his first back at the club, Mourinho believes it’s been a productive season, regardless of what unfolds over the course of the next two matches.
‘It’s because of the matches against Villa and Sunderland that we are not in a better position but to have the feeling of two victories against Liverpool and City is obviously a very good feeling for a team that did many good things during the season,’ he explained.
‘I don’t think it’s been a bad season; I think it’s been a transitional season, and to arrive where we did is very good. In a transitional season, to fight until the last moment for the title and reach the semi-finals of the Champions League is a good step.
‘Normally you compare with the season before, and if you do that Chelsea lost the title in November, and when Man United were champions Chelsea were 20 points behind.
‘In the Champions League Chelsea were the first team in history to be knocked out in the group phase after being champions. So it’s been a big step in terms of fighting for the title and the Champions League.’
With the season drawing to a close, and the transfer window set to re-open shortly, speculation has been building within the media regarding our potential transfer targets. Mourinho doesn’t expect us to be too active, but hopes to bring in one or two new signings.
Diego Costa, the Atletico Madrid striker, has been heavily linked with a switch to Stamford Bridge, but the manager was keeping his cards close to his chest.
‘The only thing I can say is that the market is closed. It opens in the summer; Chelsea will be quiet and calm in that period, we are not going to be the noisy team buying and selling, we won’t be that kind of club,’ said the Portuguese.
‘We are going to make a couple of critical signings. Is a striker a target for us? Yes, we would never deny that. Is Diego a good player? He is, but he’s an Atletico Madrid player, so I can’t say much.’
While Sunday’s game against Norwich is important for the Blues, for the visitors the contest is arguably their biggest game of the season to date.
Desperately in need of a victory to assist in their quest to avoid relegation to the Championship, the stakes simply couldn’t be higher for Neil Adams’s side.
‘It will be difficult,’ said Mourinho. ‘They will be playing for their lives, they have two games to decide where they are next season; are they in the Championship or the Premier League? Are they playing against Arsenal or Man United? Are they playing at Anfield or the Emirates? Are they playing midweek in the Championship? They are playing the game of their lives so it’s going to be very difficult.
‘I have to motivate my players with the responsibility of finishing in the top three, which is very important for us. It gives us a better pre-season because if you are in a play-off your pre-season is completely different, it changes a lot and we don’t want that.
‘I have to motivate my players with the fact the fans deserve us to win at home. We must also feel responsibility to be fair and correct with every other team who are playing for relegation. Cardiff, Fulham and Sunderland are not waiting for Chelsea to have a bad performance and lose against Norwich, so for many factors we must play a serious game but also respect professionals playing for their future.’