UEFA YOUTH LEAGUE: GOING FOR THREE OUT OF THREE

Both the first team squad and the Under-19 team have travelled to Germany for the third group stage game of their respective European campaigns and, while Jose Mourinho’s side are looking for another victory to bounce back from their opening defeat at Stamford Bridge to Basel, Dermot Drummy’s side go in search of their third successive UEFA Youth League win after consecutive 4-0 triumphs over their counterparts from Basel and Steaua Bucharest.

Schalke represent a trickier test for the impressive Under-19s, having also won their two opening games, and manager Drummy is fully aware of the challenges awaiting his boys on Tuesday afternoon in the old industrial town of Gelsenkirchen. Speaking to the official Chelsea website he said: ‘It will be a tough game against Schalke but mentally we need to be prepared.

‘The last trip to Romania was very tiring so we’ve got to try to make sure the players recover and look after themselves after the Sunderland game. A lot of the boys have been away on internationals which is tough so I’ll try to give certain players certain minutes so they can go in fresh.

‘I think German football has always produced sides with a great work ethic, a winning mentality and Schalke play good football, but so do we.’

Nine of the starters from the previous group game in Bucharest have been on international duty with their various age groups over the past fortnight, while striker Isaiah Brown is away with the England Under-17s. Drummy has been tasked with juggling the various commitments of his players to ensure they remain in peak condition, however it is a progressive step in their development that he sees as a positive rather than a hindrance.

‘Playing weekend, midweek, weekend is good, it keeps the boys sharp and it keeps competition for places high,’ he continues. ‘As a coach you don’t want to go more than four or five days without a game. It’s important for the boys to see what the first team do in terms of internationals.

‘It’s quite interesting for me as a coach because we played Manchester City after the trip to Romania and I thought mentally we were weak. You realise that the players did really well to stay in that game and win so that’s the sort of development they get. The first team are always travelling and when you’re a successful side you’re in competitions throughout the season so it’s a good development for the boys.’

This season’s participation in UEFA’s inaugural Under-19 competition contrasts with the Blues’ involvement in last year’s NextGen Series, with the UEFA competition running in line with first team Champions League commitments, however Drummy feels it has been a positive experience for his players so far.

‘UEFA have been very strict with the regulations in terms of substitutions, standards and facilities,’ he said. ‘The referees are good and the whole competitions seems to be running like clockwork. Any game against foreign opposition is different, the referees are different, the travel and grounds and environment are all different so it’s part of a new era for the boys.’

Drummy’s Under-21 side, from which the bulk of the Under-19 group is comprised, secured a hard-fought 2-2 draw up at Sunderland on Saturday and the manager has been happy with his side’s form in recent weeks as they bounced back from a couple of early-season defeats.

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‘If we look at the results, we deserved to lose against Spurs, we lost the game ourselves against Everton, but we’ve gone on a winning run since then and that’s a good recovery from the boys.

‘That winning mentality is what we want. The boys are learning the meaning of the results now. Sometimes the first team can go and get a draw away somewhere and it’s a good point so we’ve got to have that slight change in the mentality to stay in the game and not open up and that’s a good development for them.’

Highlights of Schalke Under-19s v Chelsea Under-19s can be seen in Chelsea TV’s Matchnight Live this evening.

The game is at Stimberg-Stadion with a 2pm kick-off (local time) and entry is free. There will be updates on our @chelseafc Twitter feed.

TERRY: HITTING TARGETS

Having started all but two of our competitive matches this season, John Terry has returned to his dominant, commanding best at the heart of the Chelsea defence, and on the eve of our second successive away game in the Champions League, against Schalke, the skipper has paid tribute to the impact of Jose Mourinho.

Terry, an ever-present in the Premier League thus far, was rested for our opening game in this season’s tournament, the 2-1 defeat against Basel, but returned to the side for the 4-0 win against Steaua Bucharest, our best performance of the season to date.

After a difficult 2012/13 season on a personal level, Terry has produced a host of impressive displays since August, and Mourinho will look to the 32-year-old to lead his side on the pitch at the Veltins-Arena in a crucial match, the first of a double-header against the German side.

‘When it was announced [Mourinho’s return], from the word go I was excited for him to come back,’ Terry said. ‘With the injuries I had last year I had to hit the ground running and come back fit, which I did. I made sure I came in for pre-season a week early to make sure I was ready for when he arrived and tried to impress him from day one. Thankfully that’s worked and I’m in the side, I’m happy with my form and the way the team are playing at the moment.

‘When the manager came in I know he spoke to numerous players but with myself, he laid the law down, he said it’s pretty simple, if you play well you’re in the team, if not you won’t play.

‘It’s the same for everybody in the team, that’s how it was before and that’s what he demands from his players on a daily basis. Hopefully he’s pleased with what he’s getting from everyone, which makes his job difficult to pick the side.

‘My career is where it is because of him, I’m very proud to be working with him again and more importantly the team are in a good period at the moment, we’re slowly getting to where we want to be, which is in really good form and we’re finding that at the moment.’

Now in his 11th Champions League campaign, Terry knows exactly what’s required in order to progress to the knockout stages of the competition.

Last season was the first time we’d failed to get beyond the group stages, and while this season’s campaign started badly, with a home defeat to Basel, the win in Bucharest put us back on the right track.

For our opponents, it’s been a mixed start to their domestic campaign, but in Europe they’ve flourished, taking maximum points from their opening two matches.

‘We played at the stadium once before, the fans are very good, we know about them collectively as a squad of players and individually we could talk through four or five of them,’ Terry explained.

‘They’re a real threat going forward and defensively they’ve looked solid in the games I’ve seen. We understand it’s going to be a tough game, I’ve seen highlights of their previous Champions League games, we’re not coming here under false pretences thinking we’re going to pick up three points easily, we understand it’s going to be a tough night.’

Terry’s form this season so far has been such that the only two games he hasn’t started were the home match against Basel and our Capital One Cup tie at Swindon Town.

Having partnered both David Luiz and Gary Cahill, he praised the abilities of both players, acknowledging the strength in depth at the club.

‘They’re both great centre-halves, we’ve seen in Gaz how he’s grown since he arrived at Chelsea, and he’s kicked on for England as well, what him and Jags [Phil Jagielka] are doing there is great,’ said Terry. ‘He’s great on the ball and in the air and scores a lot of goals as well.

‘David’s got great ability as well as a player, he reads the game very well, he’s great with both feet, he can find a pass and also scores some brilliant goals.

‘What they both give us is pure quality, hence the reason they’re at Chelsea. For the three of us, we understand the competition’s there, we obviously get on, but we realise only two can play.

‘We push each other, like I did when it was those two last year, and it’s down to other players to push hard and get in the team, but at the same time it’s down to myself and David, if we’re playing, to maintain it and keep our shirt.’

The Blues go into the game in the middle of a good run of form; Saturday’s 4-1 win against Cardiff City was our third victory in a row, and since losing to Everton and Basel we’ve put together a sequence of six games without defeat, scoring 16 goals in the process.

Terry, as always, is eager to drive the team on both at home and abroad. Having endured his fair share of disappointments when it comes to European finals, there will certainly be no player putting in more to ensure the Blues reach the latter stages of this season’s Champions League.

‘That’s the target and why we’re here, to win every competition we go into,’ he stressed. ‘I played in one and was very disappointed In Moscow and then I was delighted for the players that we were able to go and win it.

‘As an individual you want to be playing in those games and that’s what I’m aiming to do. We had a minor blip at home but we’re here to resurrect that, win the game tomorrow and put ourselves in a really good position. Every game and every competition we go into to win.

‘I’m in the side and the team are playing well which is the most important thing. We have great belief with the manager back, he instils that in us, both individually and collectively, so we’re delighted to have him back and hopefully we can kick on, not only in this competition but every other one we’re in as well.’

MOURINHO: WE NEED POINTS

Jose Mourinho says we will be targeting all three points away to Schalke on Tuesday night, against a side he considers our strongest opponent in Champions League Group E.

Victory in Bucharest at the beginning of the month improved our continental standing following our opening day defeat at home to Basel, and a win at the Veltins-Arena would put us back in a position of control at the halfway stage.

We arrive in Germany in a good spell of form, with three wins on the bounce in all competitions, Saturday’s 4-1 despatch of Cardiff City the most recent reminder of the Blues’ capabilities.

Mourinho is able to welcome back Andre Schurrle to his squad but remains without Ashley Cole, who did train at Cobham this morning before the squad departed for Germany, the manager opting not to take the opportunity to train at Schalke’s home stadium in Gelsenkirchen, where we played previously in 2003 and 2007.

That meant his pre-match press conference was held in a suite overlooking a runway at Dusseldorf, with the manager explaining he had picked his side but had not yet shared it with the players, disclosing only that John Terry, who was sat alongside him, would start.

‘I know but the players don’t know,’ the Portuguese said. ‘[With] only two days in between matches, I didn’t train tactically for the game so the players don’t know, so it’s a principle I want always to keep. When they don’t know I don’t like to say. I have to make an option for tomorrow – I have to make a choice between David [Luiz] and Gary [Cahill].’

Our hosts will be without key figures in Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Marco Hoger, but Mourinho is adamant they represent our strongest competition for top spot in Group E.

‘It’s difficult for a team to be at maximum power, to play a match without somebody missing through injury or suspension,’ he said. ‘They miss a couple of players, but us too. Ashley Cole is an important player for us and is not playing. That’s not a big deal. A team is a squad, not 11 players, and they have a squad with players to replace.

‘What’s the difference between Farfan and Clemens or Meyer, between Hoger and Neustadter? It’s a good team, a good opponent, and hopefully we can be better than them.

We play now two matches against the strongest opponent in the group, and need points over these two matches. That’s obvious. Tomorrow we have a game and we want to win and are going to try to win.

‘I don’t think it’s yet the time to have the calculator and to be counting the number of points you need to qualify, to be first or second or go to Europa League. I think that comes on the fifth fixture. The third and fourth are fixtures you can play just thinking about the game, trying to win and if not trying to get a point, but basically, to play without that pressure of the calculator. We lost the first at home but won the second away so found a balance.’

Naturally for a conference where there were journalists from Germany, Mourinho was asked about Schurrle, who hit a hat-trick last week for his national side against Sweden.

‘He needs some time to adapt to a different league, a different profile of competition but he is a good player, an open kid who wants to work and to learn, so our hopes are on him. We are happy with the investment in such a young player,’ he answered, before responding to enquiries about another new recruit who has been in goalscoring form, Samuel Eto’o.

‘He needs time, because in his career he played in Spain and Italy, a little bit in Russia, countries and championships different from the Premier League,’ said the manager. ‘Since the first day, he made an impact with the players. Everybody sees the fantastic quality he has in a little bit of time.

‘Cardiff was good for him, not just for the goal but for his contribution. His movement was very good, in the first half when Cardiff was compact and closed he was the one in attacking positions with better movement and participation. It’s the goal that gives him the confidence, the extra motivation he needs, so normally now he is happier. He’s a very good player.’

Eto’o’s contribution at the weekend went beyond his goal, and somewhat inevitably there were questions about the striker’s assist for Eden Hazard’s equaliser, where he dispossessed Bluebirds goalkeeper David Marshall. Mourinho was later sent to the stands by referee Anthony Taylor.

‘If I was in that game and if I was paying for my ticket, I would be worried by the fact every time the ball was out or stopped and our opponent had to put the ball in, it took [an average] of 21.5 seconds,’ he said.

‘That’s a waste of money. You pay your ticket and every time the game stops you have to wait about half a minute. When you multiply that for the number of times the game was stopped, you pay for 90 minutes but you get 55 or 60. For me, that breaks the rules. To score a goal with a hand is to break the rules. To score a goal that was not a goal (where the ball did not cross the line) like happened in Germany last week is not funny. Not anymore the goal that is not a goal, in England But in our time, there was crying in the dressing room. We lost a semi-final in the champions league and the ball didn’t cross the line.

‘Samuel did an intelligent action… in this moment FIFA says it’s a foul, then it’s a foul, but I think Samuel did well. Maybe the referee did wrong, I don’t know, to be fair, but in my opinion that should be allowed, as it was for many years.’

GERMANY BOUND

Andre Schurrle was part of a 21- man squad which departed Gatwick ahead of tomorrow’s Champions League game against Schalke in Gelsenkirchen, but Ashley Cole hasn’t travelled.

Schurrle picked up a muscle injury last week and missed Saturday’s 4-1 win over Cardiff City, but after training with the squad earlier today at Cobham, has made the trip.

Cole sustained a rib injury in our 3-1 win at Norwich and, after sitting out the win against Cardiff, as well as England’s World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland, also trained this morning.

However, Jose Mourinho believes tomorrow’s game has come just too soon for the left-back and he has remained in the UK.

Aside from Marco van Ginkel, a long-term absentee, Mourinho has no fresh injury concerns ahead of the game.

Much like our last European away game, against Steaua Bucharest last month, the first team squad have been joined on the plane by our Under-19s, who will play their Schalke counterparts tomorrow afternoon in the UEFA Youth League.

Dermot Drummy’s side will look to build on successive 4-0 wins from their opening two matches in the competition.

 

 

BLUES TRAIN IN THE RAIN

In a change to preparations for the last Champions League group game, the Chelsea squad trained at Cobham on Monday morning prior to departure for Germany.

Ahead of the match against Steaua Bucharest at the beginning of the month, the players flew to the Romanian capital and trained in the stadium on the eve of the game, but this week Jose Mourinho opted for our own facilities for his final session before the team take on Schalke on Tuesday evening.

On a wet day in Surrey, Ashley Cole and Andre Schurrle, who missed the victory over Cardiff on Saturday, were involved in the training session.

Training

On arrival at the airport in Germany later today, Mourinho and one of the players will be speaking at a media conference scheduled to start at 5.30pm UK time.

There will be coverage of that on our @chelseafc Twitter feed.