Chelsea manager unveils the precise reason why the pile-up of matches during winter does not faze him.
While Jose Mourinho was perpetually chastised for seemingly sidelining players such as Demba Ba, Kevin de Bruyne and Juan Mata, the Chelsea manager's decision to hold certain footballers in his roster back may have been part of a grander plan… to keep a number of athletes fresh for what is ultimately a heavily-congested fixture period throughout December.
'This is a period I like, where the squad can play a role, not just the team,' explained Mourinho to the club's official website recently. 'It is a period where only the brave can survive because it is hard, with the Christmas period where the accumulation of matches is so high. You don't do it as a normal team, you do it as a special group with a special mentality. I missed it when I was in Italy and Spain.'
A two-match per week minimum actually fills Chelsea's calender from now until the start of the January transfer window. While they travel to Switzerland to take on Basel in the Champions League later today, Tuesday, the club's December is packed with top-of-the-table matches with Southampton, Arsenal and Liverpool.
'We have nine matches in December and one is the match against Steaua so instead of nine matches, if we can finish the job tomorrow it will be eight competitive matches and that is our motivation [to do well against Basel],' added Mourinho, who will repeatedly stress to his players that football is no longer a team sport, but a squad game and that everyone in the senior selection will have a role to play coming up.
'I keep repeating to the players that it is the moment when everybody has a chance to feel important and everybody has the chance to show what they can do, even the people that don't play a lot. It is a big chance for all of them so I try to make them mentally ready.'
image: © Crystian Cruz