Mourinho loses key players in Chelsea’s stalemate against Atletico Madrid
Reuters in Madrid
Chelsea could field a weakened team in their top of the table Premier League game at Liverpool on Sunday, said manager Jose Mourinho after Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at Atletico Madrid.
The stalemate at the Vicente Calderon, which Atletico coach Diego Simeone believes gives Chelsea a slight advantage in next week’s return at Stamford Bridge, came at a cost for the 2012 winners, however.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech was ruled out for the season after hurting his elbow, captain John Terry limped off with an ankle injury and midfielders Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel earned bookings that mean they are suspended for the second leg.
With his second-placed side five points adrift of leaders Liverpool with only three games left, Mourinho is clearly prioritising next week’s Champions League second leg at home to Atletico over their slim Premier League title hopes.
The Portuguese, however, said he would speak to the hierarchy at Chelsea before making a final decision on the team he would field at Anfield on Sunday.
Asked on ITV Sport if he would select a weaker team against Liverpool, Mourinho replied: “I think I will but it’s something we have to speak about internally. It’s not a decision a manager can make on his own.
“I can’t decide by myself; that’s a decision where I have to listen to the club. I’m just the manager, no more than that.”
He said Chelsea had already tried and failed to get the Premier League to switch the Liverpool game to Friday or Saturday in order to give his team more time to prepare for the second leg against Atletico.
“The fact the match is on a Sunday puts the problem not in my hands but the hands of the people who decide the game should be played on Sunday, not Saturday or Friday,” explained Mourinho.
“We represent English football, we are the only English team left in Europe.
“Spain has four teams and gives them all the conditions to have success,” added Mourinho, referring to the fact that the top sides in La Liga often get the chance to play on a Friday or a Saturday ahead of Champions League midweek fixtures.
Mourinho returned to Spain on Tuesday with an ultra-cautious approach as his team earned the draw in a match lacking in excitement on.
Atletico, through to the last four of Europe’s elite club competition for the first time in 40 years, dominated their defence-minded visitors and pushed hard for a goal but failed to carve out the advantage they wanted.
Back in the Spanish capital for the first time since quitting Atletico’s city rivals Real at the end of last season, Mourinho set out to thwart the home team rather than attack them and the result means his side will be favourites to advance to next month’s final in Lisbon.
The Londoners lost Cech when he fell heavily and hurt his right elbow in the 15th minute but neither his replacement Mark Schwarzer nor Atletico keeper Thibaut Courtois, on loan from Chelsea, were genuinely tested in a drab affair.
“We had problems before the game, during the game and lost four players, two with injuries and two with yellow cards, but we will fight,” Mourinho said.
“Nobody starts a game thinking of a 0-0,” added the Portuguese, who ended his final season at Real without any major silverware after they lost to Atletico in the King’s Cup final.
“But the game goes in a certain direction where you feel you have to be safe and not concede, try to score in one of the chances you create.
“We had three or four corners and two free kicks in dangerous positions. If we scored one of them the result would have been very good. We didn’t, and we go with a result where everything will be decided at Stamford Bridge.”