Jose Mourinho has said that Ashley Cole will start Chelsea’s last Champions League group game against Steaua Bucharest at Stamford Bridge tomorrow.
Cole has been playing second fiddle to Cesar Azpilicueta in recent weeks but Mourinho has promised that he would end up giving Cole a start in the not too distant future on several occasions in order to rotate his side to keep the squad fresh.
Mourinho said at his pre-match press conference today: ‘It is easy to feel that he is not happy, not comfortable with the situation, but the way he trains is super professional, as always. When he is on the bench, I can feel his will to win, even if he is not on the pitch. He is a fantastic guy, full from respect from me and the players and yes he starts tomorrow.’
A lot of pundits and commentators have expressed a degree of surprise at Cole not playing in the starting line-up at late with Azpilicueta – naturally a right sided player – playing ahead of him at left-back.
Over the past few weeks Mourinho has come out with the same sort of comments when it comes to Cole, praising his professionalism in training and around the side and has kept saying that he will get his chance due to the demands of the upcoming fixture schedule.
Though at the age of 32, some would argue that the Chelsea boss is gradually phasing Cole out of the team, or at least trying to keep him as fresh as possible for the bigger games. Azpilicueta may have impressed during his time in the side and Mourinho could have found it difficult to drop him as result – and the fact that Ryan Bertrand is still lower down the pecking order than Cole could be an indication that it is more form related than something to do with age.
But five league games on the bounce - along with the last two Champions League group stages matches - is a pretty length period to be left on the bench for a player of such quality and pedigree, and wants to play for his country in the upcoming World Cup at the end of the season in Brazil.
The true indication of Mourinho’s plans with Cole will probably follow this game. Will it be his turn to get a run in the side, will Azpilicueta return, or are we going to see that position regularly ‘rotated’?