The Portuguese coach and self-proclaimed Special One told the press following his side’s 0-0 draw at Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie in the Spanish capital that, due to injuries suffered by key players, he may field a weakened team against the Premier League leaders this weekend at Anfield.
"The fact that the match is on Sunday, I think that puts the problem not in my hands but in the hands of those who decide the game should be Sunday, not Saturday or Friday. We represent English football and are the only [English] team in European competition,” he explained.
Mourinho is clearly criticising the FA for their scheduling of the clash with the Reds on Sunday, which leaves his already depleted Blues squad just three days to rest and prepare for the arrival of the La Liga leaders at Stamford Bridge next Wednesday night for the second leg.
"We lost four players – two with injuries and two with yellow cards – but we will fight. If we have to play the kids, we play the kids,” he added.
Mourinho will not face punishment from the Football Association should he indeed decide to field a ‘weakened’ at Anfield on Sunday, prioritising the Champions League over the Premier League on this occasion.
It was only back in January this year when the Blues boss took a swipe at Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger over the Frenchman’s suggestion the Gunners had a disadvantageous fixture schedule to which Mourinho responded ahead of their clash:
“Who plays Friday? [Arsenal]. Who plays Sunday? [Chelsea]. When you go to the fixtures this season, it's never fair because they always get the right to rest and the right time to play. It's fantastic. That's not fair.”
The Blues coach had the audacity to assert that Wenger was ‘always complaining’ but this season I think the majority of the complaining has been coming from the Special One.
Meanwhile, for the manager of the highest spending club over the last decade since the arrival of owner Roman Abramovich in 2004 Mourinho has every advantage possible in terms of his squad’s strength and depth.
Look at the players on the Blues books this term, and then look again at the players they can happily afford to send out on loan, surplus to requirement, including Liverpool loanee Victor Moses, for example.
When Mourinho refers to the ‘kids’ we’re talking about players like Nemanja Matic, Marco van Ginkel Mohamed Salah, Andre Schurrle and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the experienced old guard like Henrique Hilario (or Mark Schwarzer), John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard, and likely Demba Ba. Youngsters like Andreas Christensen, Nathan Ake and Tomas Kalas could feature but, overall, there are few ‘kids’ teams that can boast such an array of talent.
Furthermore, Mourinho’s decision to prioritise the Champions League is one he makes of his own accord – if the Blues were several goals down in the tie already with the Spanish giants would he be so keen to rest his key players?
I find it hard to believe that athletes at the top level of their profession and with all the fitness and conditioning they do cannot muster enough energy to play even 60 or 70 minutes at Anfield on Sunday and then 90 minutes if necessary on Wednesday night. Most clubs don’t have the luxury in the first place of the kind of rotation Chelsea and Manchester City have too.
For example, Eden Hazard has played 3,681 minutes for Chelsea across all competitions this season – Luis Suarez has played 3,147 which is due to his ban at the start of the season but other than that they’ve played practically the same amount of minutes, and both are their team’s best players.
But, for example, Oscar has played 3,034 minutes across all competitions compared to 3,090 minutes and we are expected to believe the 22-year-old Brazilian hasn’t got the gas in the tank to match the 33-year-old England captain on Sunday?
Samuel Eto’o has played 2,670 minutes this season and Mourinho is suggesting he can’t play on Sunday against Liverpool against Martin Skrtel who has played 3,221 minutes this term?
Liverpool get a little more rest ahead of the game but that’s nothing new, it happens here and there to every top team every season, and with all Mourinho’s experience, one would have thought he’d be used to it by now, as would his players.
They’ll have had four days to travel back from Madrid, rest and prepare and they’ll have three days after the clash to rest and prepare. That’s perfectly acceptable for a modern day professional athlete to correctly condition his mind and body.
Chelsea’s first-team squad values at £340 million compared to Liverpool’s £250 million, for example. Liverpool haven’t had the drain of European football this year and it’s clear that been an advantage in the Premier League title race but this petulant complaining from Mourinho is actually counter producctive – if Chelsea put out a strong team on Sunday, there’s absolutely no reason they can’t beat the Reds and throw their title hopes off track at the final hurdle.
I think he is clearly just preparing his excuse for defeat in advance – now after the game, whoever he plays, he can say ‘we were tired’, ‘we have injuries’, and ‘we were weakened’. If Chelsea lose on Sunday and then don’t progress through the tie against Atletico Madrid, he is going to look awfully foolish, and his excuses won’t make up for the trophies Chelsea could lose out on.