Mourinho facing uncertain Chelsea future

The future of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho remained clouded in doubt on Sunday following the Premier League champions’ latest setback against Liverpool.

Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat on Saturday, their sixth in 11 league games, left them four points above the relegation zone and prompted more lurid newspaper headlines about the possible fate awaiting Mourinho.

Citing sources in Portugal, The Sunday Mirror said that Mourinho was “on the brink” and could be sacked before Wednesday’s Champions League home game against Dynamo Kiev, while The Sun on Sunday claimed that he has been given two games to save his job.

The Independent on Sunday, meanwhile, reported that he will be given until the end of November to get Chelsea back on track.

Mourinho was defiant after Saturday’s game at Stamford Bridge, dismissing suggestions that he had presided over his last match as manager and saying that he expected to be given more time by owner Roman Abramovich.

Chelsea gave Mourinho a public vote of confidence last month, but the team have won just one of their five matches since and saw their defence of the League Cup ended by Stoke City.

Nevertheless, Mourinho appears to retain the support of the club’s supporters, who chanted his name throughout the defeat against Liverpool, which was the club’s third home loss of the campaign.

“The fans aren’t stupid,” said Mourinho, who returned to Chelsea for a second spell in charge in 2013 and last season led the club to a league and League Cup double.

“They know how much myself and the players are trying.”

Avram Grant, who succeeded Mourinho after he was sacked by Chelsea in September 2007, only to be himself dismissed eight months later, believes the end is not yet nigh for the Portuguese.

“Normally Roman gives the manager space,” Grant told BBC Radio 5.

“He’s not day-by-day wanting to know what’s happening. He’s not a guy who will pick up the phone every five minutes and ask what you are doing.

“Even when the situation is not so good, he will want to show everything is calm.”

Mourinho was expected to take training as scheduled on Sunday, having told reporters after the Liverpool game that he would soon begin preparations for Wednesday’s match with Dynamo.

Chelsea’s Brazilian playmaker Oscar said that the only way to turn the situation around was to string a run of wins together.

“We need to win — doesn’t matter if it’s Champions League or Premier League,” he told Chelsea TV.

“We need to start winning games, because we played well against West Ham, played well against Stoke, played well today (Saturday), but we don’t win. We need to win the games.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Mourinho and Klopp seek League Cup bounce

Besieged Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and his Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp are both in pressing need of a change of fortune going into this week’s League Cup fourth-round matches.

Cup holders Chelsea, dealt a fifth Premier League defeat of the season at West Ham United on Saturday, visit Stoke City on Tuesday, while Liverpool, who have drawn all three games since Klopp’s appointment, host Bournemouth the following evening.

Chelsea’s 2-1 loss at Upton Park was a damaging affair for the league champions, with Nemanja Matic sent off and Mourinho banished to the stands alongside assistant Silvino Louro, and full-back Cesar Azpilicueta says that he and his teammates are itching to make amends.

“We want to play as soon as possible,” the Spaniard told Chelsea TV. “We have the game against Stoke.

“We want to get through and our mentality has to be to recover as quick as possible and to get into the next round on Tuesday.”

With Chelsea 11 points off the pace in the league and in third place in their Champions League group, the trip to the Britannia Stadium offers an opportunity to sweep talk of crisis from the back pages.

But Mourinho must balance pursuit of victory with the need to avoid over-exerting his players amid a sequence of six games in 19 days that continues on Saturday with a home match against Liverpool.

Klopp was appointed to great fanfare as the successor to Brendan Rodgers, but Sunday’s 1-1 home draw with Southampton was Liverpool’s third successive stalemate since his arrival.

The German will hope that the tide turns at Anfield on Wednesday and will draw encouragement from the fact that opponents Bournemouth have shipped 10 goals in their last two outings, courtesy of back-to-back 5-1 beatings at the hands of Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.

– Life after Sherwood –

“We can work with this result,” Klopp said after the Southampton game. “We can work with this performance of the team.

“If I sit here and have to say, ‘These guys are not ready for fighting,’ or what not, then it would be bad news. But everybody saw how ready they are and that’s the most important thing.”

Following a dreary goalless stalemate in Sunday’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford, Manchester City and Manchester United continue their League Cup campaigns on Wednesday.

United entertain second-tier Middlesbrough, while City welcome Crystal Palace to the Etihad Stadium.

Antonio Valencia is a doubt for United after manager Louis van Gaal revealed that the right-sided Ecuadorian player sustained a foot injury against City, which saw him replaced by Matteo Darmian late in the game.

The point earned at Old Trafford took City back to the top of the table above Arsenal, but Arsene Wenger’s side otherwise had little to complain about following a week in which they resurrected their Champions League campaign by beating Bayern Munich 2-0 and then defeated Everton 2-1.

“It is a perfect week and it is not easy to have that,” said the Arsenal manager, whose team visit second-tier Sheffield Wednesday.

“The only negative is that we lost some players through injury during the week, but I will have to rest some players Tuesday night against Sheffield. I think for some players it will be one game too many for them.”

Aston Villa will begin life without Tim Sherwood, sacked as manager on Sunday, with a trip to Southampton, where Under-21 coach Kevin MacDonald will be in temporary charge of the visitors.

Leicester City, fifth in the Premier League after a 1-0 win over Palace, travel to Championship side Hull City, while Everton host Norwich City in one of the five all-top-flight ties.

Fixtures (1945 GMT unless otherwise stated)

Tuesday:

Everton v Norwich City, Hull City v Leicester City, Sheffield Wednesday v Arsenal, Stoke City v Chelsea

Wednesday:

Liverpool v Bournemouth, Manchester City v Crystal Palace, Manchester United v Middlesbrough (2000 GMT), Southampton v Aston Villa

Photo Credits : AFP

Mourinho, Wenger clash over bothersome Costa

Diego Costa provided the lightning conductor as the longstanding friction between Chelsea and Arsenal crackled to the fore during his side’s ill-tempered 2-0 victory in the Premier League.

Costa sparked the incident, late in the first half, that culminated in the dismissal of Arsenal centre-back Gabriel, who was goaded into kicking out at the Chelsea striker following a penalty-box scuffle involving Laurent Koscielny.

Costa twice appeared to swing his arm at Koscielny and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was exasperated that referee Mike Dean had sent off Gabriel and allowed the Spain international to remain on the pitch.

“He can do what he wants, he stays on. Everybody else who responds to him has to be sent off,” a visibly aggravated Wenger told his post-match press conference at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

“I think his behaviour is unacceptable. If you look at the pictures, what he does to Koscielny, before he pushes him down in the face, he hits him in the face. And he always get away with it.

“I don’t understand Mike Dean’s decision at all.”

Wenger accepted that Gabriel had been wrong to react, but he said that Dean’s handling of the incident had shown “weakness” and “naivety”.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho dismissed Wenger’s claims, however, and used the opportunity to lecture his long-time adversary on the importance of “emotional control”.

“I played against Arsenal 12, 15, 18 times, I don’t know, and only once he (Wenger) didn’t moan,” said Mourinho, who shared a perfunctory handshake with his opposite number prior to kick-off.

“In that day, we lost the game, we lost the cup. It was not good for us. We behave in a fantastic way. No excuses, not crying, not moaning, just Mr Jose Mourinho, my players and Chelsea Football Club.

“I played my first derby on the twenty-something of September 2000. Benfica against Porto. And I told my players before the game, to win derbies you need emotional control.

“Without emotional control, forget it, you don’t win. It’s a basic thing of the game.”

– ‘Game over’ –

Asked to justify Costa’s behaviour, Mourinho said that the focus should instead be on Gabriel’s “mistake” in retaliating.

When pressed on Costa’s apparent assault on Koscielny, he attempted a joke, telling his inquisitor: “I can guess that when you were a kid, you were playing badminton.”

Costa was hit with a retrospective three-game ban for treading on Liverpool’s Emre Can in a League Cup tie last season and Wenger invited the Football Association to look at his latest indiscretion.

But Mourinho, who left captain John Terry on the bench, said: “I think he said before the game that I have to cope with my defeats. Tonight (Saturday), he has to cope with his defeat.”

After Gabriel’s dismissal, Kurt Zouma headed Chelsea in front from a Cesc Fabregas free-kick in the 53rd minute.

Arsenal then lost Santi Cazorla to a second yellow card before Eden Hazard added the coup de grace with a deflected strike a minute from time.

Wenger said it was “frustrating” to have conceded a goal from a set-piece and described Cazorla’s dismissal, in the 78th minute, as “game over”.

While Arsenal nurse their wounds after back-to-back defeats, following the mid-week 2-1 loss at Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League, Chelsea are hopeful of a turnaround.

Mourinho’s men began their Champions League campaign by beating Maccabi Tel Aviv 4-0 and must now seek to whittle away Manchester City’s eight-point advantage in the Premier League.

“In these two matches, we improved a lot, in many aspects,” said Mourinho, whose side launch their League Cup defence at Walsall on Wednesday.

“Defensively, the team was much better. The attacking players defended much better than before. They created a compact zone and reacted very well when they lost the ball.

“Sometimes against 10 men, teams play bad. We played very well against 10 men. We gave them no chance.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Mourinho hails departing legend Drogba

Jose Mourinho believes Didier Drogba’s influence will continue to be felt at Chelsea even though the Ivory Coast forward has called time on his second spell with the Premier League champions.

Drogba announced his intention to leave Stamford Bridge before the 3-1 victory over Sunderland on Sunday that ensured Mourinho’s side ended their title-winning campaign in fitting style before being presented with the trophy after the final whistle.

The 37-year-old is keen to play on for one more year, but will have to look elsewhere for more regular first team action.

Drogba was named captain but played only 28 minutes before being chaired from the pitch by his team-mates as he was replaced by Diego Costa.

And Blues boss Mourinho insists the veteran’s legacy will continue to be felt because of his impact on the development of the club’s younger players.

“The substitution was decided because he had a problem with his knee and, in normal conditions, he could not play for long. We left him on for half an hour,” Mourinho said.

“The captaincy was John Terry’s desire, to give him the armband. The players to bring him off the pitch? I think that was decided between them because they like him a lot.

“I’m really happy because he was part of the other team, but he belongs also to this new Chelsea.

“For these players to know him, train with him, live with him, play with him, share with him is fantastic.

“He was very, very good for these young people: Eden Hazard, Willian, Oscar. They learnt from a good example. His was a fantastic contribution this season.”

– Young legend –

Petr Cech also started on what could be his last appearance for the club.

The Chelsea goalkeeper, 33, is keen to move in search of more regular first team football and has been strongly linked with Arsenal, but Mourinho has not given up hope of keeping Cech.

“I keep saying the same. He’s a legend of this club, but he’s a legend at 33. Thirty-three for a goalkeeper is a very young legend,” Mourinho said.

“One of our strengths this season was to have the two best goalkeepers in the Premier League. When Thibaut Courtois was injured, Petr made decisive saves in matches for us.

“I’m not sure if Petr was not here in these seven matches if we could be champions, so his contribution was decisive.

“But we also have to be fair, and not emotional with our analysis, and say that Thibaut is an amazing goalkeeper who had a fantastic season for us. He’s a big champion.”

Members of Chelsea’s 2005 title-winning team were reunited before kick off and Mourinho said: “For me, to have here today the champions of 2004-05 and the champions of 2014-15 is an amazing feeling because I feel as if I belong to both.

“I belong to two generations. To be back for the end of my team was hard. To see Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and Didier Drogba leave is very hard.

“But my job is Chelsea’s future and Chelsea’s future is this team that we’ve been working with in the last few years.

“It would be a dream to be here in 2025 and be with the champions of 2005, 2015 and 2025.”

Sunderland arrived at Stamford Bridge having already secured their Premier League status and boss Dick Advocaat, who masterminded their escape after arriving on a short-term deal in March, insisted he would make a decision on his own future soon.

“Wait and see. It’s not up to me, because they offered me already two or three years. But I have to be honest to myself and to everybody what I will do for the future,” Advocaat said.

“It will be as quick as possible, because the club must know.

“Let’s wait till next week and then I’ll make the decision.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Chelsea boss Mourinho outraged by Fabregas red card

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho expressed his frustration after Cesc Fabregas was sent off in bizarre fashion as the champions were defeated 3-0 at West Bromwich Albion.

The Spanish midfielder is set to miss the first two matches of next season plus the final game of this campaign at home to Sunderland on Sunday following his first half dismissal after he kicked the ball against Chris Brunt.

Mourinho felt that a more experienced referee than Mike Jones would have resolved the situation with a mere lecture after tempers flared following a Diego Costa and Gareth McAuley off the ball coming together 29 minutes into the action at the Hawthorns.

“I’ve not seen a sending off like that,” said Mourinho.

“I would like to see it again. What is this for a sending off? Where is the danger of the situation to get a red card in a friendly game almost?

“I don’t understand. Darren Fletcher was aggressive yes, he pushed in the chest. He’s experienced. It was much more aggressive than what Fabregas did.

“A top referee with big personality has a few words and controls the game. It’s a bizarre red card.

“Three game ban for this? Jesus Christ. Of course it’s harsh. We lose all the time (when we appeal) but I’ve not spoken to him.

“Diego Costa was targeted, of course. But it’s the same story.

“It depends on the referee. If the referee wants to protect the talent and punish the bully it is easy for him.

“Congratulations to West Brom for the season and this three points. And let’s go home.”

Mourinho felt this first defeat in 19 matches was the net result of claiming the title three games ago as Saido Berahino scored on nine minutes and added a penalty two minutes after the break before Brunt scored a third on the hour.

“The ideal scenario is to be champions and don’t play again, go home and have holidays,” he said.

“When you have three more matches it can happen with Bayern Munich three defeats in three and we claim one point in two.

“When you play since August with motivation and commitment and feeling the pressure, when you are champions you breathe and everything changes.

“It is difficult to play. Let’s blame the players a bit, myself and the top contenders for the title as they were not good enough to fight with us. This is a consequence of being champions so early.”

West Brom manager Tony Pulis insists any criticism of Chelsea is unwarranted.

“It’s a great finish, we will finish 13th in the table but I don’t think anything should be taken away from the team we played,” he said.

“The team we’ve played have been by far the best team in England. They have won the league by a country mile and they have been much better than anyone else.

“Although we have won this game, all the praise should go to Jose, his coaching staff, the people of Chelsea and the players.

“Jose was very good. I’ve managed against him twice and managed to beat him twice with Palace and West Brom.

“He was very gracious in defeat and for all what we have done, they have been worthy champions. They are a fantastic football club with wonderful players and for some people to criticise them is unbelievable.

“We were so on edge after we lost at home to QPR and Leicester but the lads have bounced back.

“The attitude has been wonderful, we got the breaks in this game, we played really well at times and defended well. The discipline was good and we made it very difficult for Chelsea.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Chelsea ‘almost’ champions, says Mourinho

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said that his team were “almost there” in their pursuit of the Premier League title after they beat Manchester United 1-0 at home on Saturday.

Eden Hazard put Chelsea ahead against the run of play in the 38th minute and his goal proved enough to end the visitors’ six-game winning run and open up a 10-point lead over second-place Arsenal.

Louis van Gaal’s United are a point further back in third place, having played a game more, and Chelsea will be champions if they win their next two matches against Arsenal and Leicester City.

“I feel we are almost there, but there are no ‘almosts’ in football,” Mourinho said. “We need eight points to be champions. It is pure mathematics.

“Six games to play; three at home, three away. Every game is difficult, every team needs points. But out situation is very good.”

Chelsea won despite enjoying only 30 percent of possession at Stamford Bridge, but Mourinho felt that his team were worthy winners.

“The game was exactly the game we want,” he said.

“The only thing we couldn’t do was to kill the game with a second goal. We were able to make their important players disappear. Nobody saw them. They were in our pockets. Football is talent, but strategy is also important.”

But United manager Van Gaal disagreed, arguing that the result failed to reflect the away side’s dominance.

“I’m not frustrated — I’m very proud of my team,” the Dutchman told reporters.

“We played the best match of this season. But in football, you can lose in spite of being the better team.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Chelsea have look of champions says Mourinho

Jose Mourinho believes Chelsea are firmly on course to win the Premier League after extending their lead at the top to six points with a battling 3-2 victory at Hull.

The Blues, chasing their first English league crown since 2010, re-established their stranglehold on the title race thanks to Loic Remy’s late winner at the KC Stadium on Sunday.

And with Chelsea holding a game in hand on second placed Manchester City, Mourinho says they are now firm favourites to lift the trophy.

“The title race should be over,” Mourinho said. “The title race in normal conditions, Chelsea should have eight, 10, 12 points more than we have – title race over.

“But football is unpredictable and the reality is we have a six-point lead which is our best situation for the whole season.

“The maximum lead we had was eight but when we had eight we had more matches to go.

“In this moment we have a six-point lead, one match in hand, that can help us have a bigger distance with eight matches to go to our opponents.

“They (City) can make 24 points, if they can make 24 points for us it is a question of mathematics to see how much we need

“I’m pretty confident. I believe in my players, I believe that we can do it.”

Chelsea had to work for their win at Hull, despite making a flying start.

– Conservative and collective –

Goals from Eden Hazard and Diego Costa put Mourinho’s team two goals ahead in the first nine minutes, but struggling Hull showed admirable determination to draw level with two goals in quick succession from Ahmed Elmohamady and Abel Hernandez before half-time.

Substitute Remy scored the winning goal with 13 minutes left after replacing the injured Costa.

Costa has suffered a recurrence of the hamstring injury that has bothered him since last season and is a doubt for Spain’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Ukraine on March 27.

“For Diego (the international break) is good, because imagine we play three matches in one week, that’s three matches he doesn’t play,” Mourinho said.

“I don’t think it will need an operation. Our doctor is against surgeries, against knives.

“We are all in favour of conservative work and collective work between medical department and fitness technical staff. This is the direction we believe.”

While Chelsea’s sights are on the Premier League title, Hull’s attention lies at the other end of the table.

They remain three points clear of the relegation zone after the six lowest teams in the league all suffered defeats over the weekend.

Despite Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United featuring in the Tigers’ run-in, boss Steve Bruce remains bullish about their survival prospects.

“I’m sure we’ve got enough and I’m convinced if we play like that we’re good enough to stay in this division,” Bruce said.

“We’re ready for the challenge. We’ve seen that over the last few weeks.

“We had an awful couple of months in winter time but just lately we’ve seen a bit of resilience come back into them.

“That’s as good a display from us for a long time.

“We gave Chelsea a hell of a run for their money and on another day it could have gone our way.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Chelsea won’t relax says Mourinho

Jose Mourinho insists there is no chance of complacency at Stamford Bridge after Chelsea opened up a six-point lead at the top of the Premier League table.

Mourinho’s side extended their advantage over second-placed Manchester City after a 1-1 home draw with Southampton on Sunday and have still played a game less than the chasing pack.

With just nine games remaining, the English title appears destined for the Bridge unless Chelsea make a dramatic collapse.

But while Blues boss Mourinho claims he would have taken his side’s current standing at the start of the season, he maintains the title race is far from over.

“I keep saying our situation is much better than if it was the start of the season. But it’s not easy. Every match is difficult,” Mourinho said.

“Remember our two matches against Southampton. In one game there was one penalty that is not a penalty; in another game, a penalty that was not given.

“So you are speaking about six points and getting two. So the danger is always there. But I keep saying, we are there.

“If someone had told me in August that, at the end of March, we’d be six points in front with a match in hand, I’d have signed for that immediately.

“We are not complacent. It is something I cannot accuse my players of in every game, of being complacent. I’m not afraid of that.”

– Title momentum –

Manchester City’s challenge was dented by the shock defeat at struggling Burnley on Saturday and Manuel Pellegrini’s side now lie just one point ahead of Arsenal in third.

Mourinho accepts Arsene Wenger’s side are contenders but questioned whether the Gunners are the side with momentum given their recent Champions League defeat to Monaco.

“Of course Arsenal are contenders. Seven points behind Chelsea, and one less match to play than Chelsea,” he said.

“I keep thinking our opposition is better than them. Both teams are in the race but who has the momentum?”

Diego Costa gave Chelsea the lead against Southampton before a contentious penalty from Dusan Tadic brought Ronald Koeman’s side level.

Chelsea’s performance improved in the second half but Mourinho admitted to mixed feelings about his side’s display.

“There are two perspectives, and I have both with me. I’m not happy with the result, but I am with the six point lead,” he said.

“I’m not jumping with happiness and not crying in disappointment. I have both these perspectives.”

Mourinho also took the opportunity to deliver another barb in the direction of those television pundits who had criticised his side after the Champions League exit to Paris Saint Germain.

He had previously condemned Graeme Souness, the former Liverpool player and manager, for his comments.

Maintaining the theme, he said: “Pundits are pundits, managers are managers. Pundits are paid to wear my suit, but I’m not paid to wear their suit or comment on their comments.

“If, one day, I become a pundit I will wear a manager’s suit and win every game, because that’s what pundits do. And then I can be critics. I can be phenomenal like they are.”

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman praised the display of goalkeeper Fraser Forster, although he refused to debate whether Forster should replace Joe Hart in the England team.

“I’m very happy and pleased that we have Fraser in our team. Not only today: the expectation for today is much bigger than normal, and he had fantastic saves in the second half, but he has played an unbelievably high level for the team,” he said.

“Goalkeepers are always key players in a team, in a good defence, and that’s one of the qualities we have.

“Hart is a good goalkeeper, Fraser is a good goalkeeper. I’m happy to have him in the team. It’s not my decision to make (who the best English goalkeeper is at present).”

Photo Credits : AFP

Terry tells Chelsea to forget Euro woe against Saints

John Terry has challenged his Chelsea team-mates to put their painful Champions League defeat against Paris Saint-Germain behind them when they resume their Premier League title challenge against Southampton on Sunday.

Blues boss Jose Mourinho responded to the frustrating midweek loss to 10-man PSG by declaring his confidence in his players’ ability to bounce back after their bid for European success came to an abrupt halt.

And his squad can justify that faith by tightening their grip at the top of the table with victory over Ronald Koeman’s side at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho’s men are five points clear of second-placed Manchester City having played a game less than their nearest rivals.

But the visit of a Southampton side aiming for a top four spot will provide a test of Chelsea’s resilience as the Blues attempt to add the English title to their League Cup triumph earlier this month.

And Chelsea captain Terry admits there was no time for the players to feel sorry for themselves if they are to maintain their title bid.

“We have to pick ourselves up and go again at the weekend because it’s another big game against a very good Southampton side,” Terry said.

“We’ve got the League Cup out of the way, that’s in our pocket, and now the Premier League is all we’ve got.

“It’s a massive one to go for, we’re a few points clear and we need to keep that gap. We can only do that by responding and picking up three points at the weekend.

“We can’t stay down because Southampton will come here on the front foot, they’re playing well and if we’re not at it we’ll drop points.”

– Hunger games –

Mourinho revealed he had held a meeting with his players to dissect the PSG loss.

And he points to the fact none of his players reported fresh injuries after that game as evidence of the hunger within his squad to put things right.

“My doctor told me, after the game, maybe tomorrow you’ll have a few injuries. Why? Because we lost, because people are sad,” he said.

“Maybe there’ll be a couple of injuries. But zero injuries. Everybody wants to play.”

Chelsea’s away goals exit on Wednesday did not go unnoticed down at Southampton however.

Southampton have dropped to seventh after winning just one of their last four games, but right-back Nathaniel Clyne believes Saints can capitalise on Chelsea’s woes.

“We saw them play against PSG and thought they looked a bit tired. Hopefully, we can capitalise on that,” he said.

“We are fresh at the moment and, if we take the game to them, we can cause an upset.

“If we play the game we can play, it will be a good game, and hopefully we can get the points.

“It will be difficult – Chelsea are a good team with quality players, but we are up for the challenge.”

Clyne and his team-mates have enjoyed a 12-day break since their 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace and flew out to Switzerland for a training camp.

The decision of manager Koeman to spurn the usual warm weather trip and head for the snow instead raised eyebrows but the Dutchman believes the contrast will benefit his side in the run-in.

“It was a good trip. It was something different, totally different to what we’re normally doing on a daily basis,” he said.

“It was a different world, with different altitude to do some activities away from football and that was the most important. We came back to the training sessions this week to prepare for Chelsea.

“I also spoke to the team captains, Kelvin Davis and Jose Fonte about the trip. They mentioned Dubai and not snow but I said it was a good idea for the club.

“Some players were sceptical but everybody had a great time there.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Terry tells Chelsea teammates to forget Euro woe

John Terry has challenged his Chelsea team-mates to put their painful Champions League defeat against Paris Saint Germain behind them when they resume their Premier League title challenge against Southampton on Sunday.

Blues boss Jose Mourinho responded to the frustrating midweek loss to 10-man PSG by declaring his confidence in his players’ ability to bounce back after their bid for European success came to an abrupt halt.

And his squad can justify that faith by tightening their grip at the top of the table with victory over Ronald Koeman’s side at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho’s men are five points clear of second-placed Manchester City having played a game less than their nearest rivals.

But the visit of a Southampton side aiming for a top four spot will provide a test of Chelsea’s resilience as the Blues attempt to add the English title to their League Cup triumph earlier this month.

And Chelsea captain Terry admits there was no time for the players to feel sorry for themselves if they are to maintain their title bid.

“We have to pick ourselves up and go again at the weekend because it’s another big game against a very good Southampton side,” Terry said.

“We’ve got the League Cup out of the way, that’s in our pocket, and now the Premier League is all we’ve got.

“It’s a massive one to go for, we’re a few points clear and we need to keep that gap. We can only do that by responding and picking up three points at the weekend.

“We can’t stay down because Southampton will come here on the front foot, they’re playing well and if we’re not at it we’ll drop points.”

– Hunger games –

Mourinho revealed he had held a meeting with his players to dissect the PSG loss.

And he points to the fact none of his players reported fresh injuries after that game as evidence of the hunger within his squad to put things right.

“My doctor told me, after the game, maybe tomorrow you’ll have a few injuries. Why? Because we lost, because people are sad,” he said.

“Maybe there’ll be a couple of injuries. But zero injuries. Everybody wants to play.”

Chelsea’s away goals exit on Wednesday did not go unnoticed down at Southampton however.

Southampton have dropped to seventh after winning just one of their last four games, but right-back Nathaniel Clyne believes Saints can capitalise on Chelsea’s woes.

“We saw them play against PSG and thought they looked a bit tired. Hopefully, we can capitalise on that,” he said.

“We are fresh at the moment and, if we take the game to them, we can cause an upset.

“If we play the game we can play, it will be a good game, and hopefully we can get the points.

“It will be difficult – Chelsea are a good team with quality players, but we are up for the challenge.”

Clyne and his team-mates have enjoyed a 12-day break since their 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace and flew out to Switzerland for a training camp.

The decision of manager Koeman to spurn the usual warm weather trip and head for the snow instead raised eyebrows but the Dutchman believes the contrast will benefit his side in the run-in.

“It was a good trip. It was something different, totally different to what we’re normally doing on a daily basis,” he said.

“It was a different world, with different altitude to do some activities away from football and that was the most important. We came back to the training sessions this week to prepare for Chelsea.

“I also spoke to the team captains, Kelvin Davis and Jose Fonte about the trip. They mentioned Dubai and not snow but I said it was a good idea for the club.

“Some players were sceptical but everybody had a great time there.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Pellegrini remains hopeful as Mourinho sulks after City’s 1-1 draw against Chelsea

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho kept his thoughts to himself after his side consolidated their position atop the Premier League with a 1-1 home draw against nearest rivals Manchester City.

Aggrieved by striker Diego Costa’s three-game ban for treading on Liverpool’s Emre Can — an incident he felt was unfairly amplified by the media — Mourinho has imposed a personal press blackout at Stamford Bridge.

Having cancelled his weekly press conference on Friday, he refused to speak on television either before or after Saturday’s game, while in contravention of Premier League rules, reporters attending his post-match press conference were greeted by the sight of an empty blue chair.

The Portuguese appears to be attempting to create a siege mentality at Chelsea and while his no-show drew scorn from fans on social media, it is a tactic that does not appear to have done his players any harm.

Saturday’s draw, in which City midfielder David Silva cancelled out Loic Remy’s opener, left Chelsea five points above City, the defending champions, with 15 matches of the season remaining.

City captain Vincent Kompany claimed afterwards that “five points is nothing”, but although an eight-point lead would have seemed insurmountable, his side still remain dependent on Chelsea faltering.

Visiting manager Manuel Pellegrini sent on strikers Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic, as well as former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard, in the closing stages as City went in search of the goal that would have taken them to within two points of the summit.

But although the Chilean admitted he was “not happy” with a point, he declared that there was plenty of time for his side to engineer a repeat of their surge to the title last season.

“Of course it was important to try to close the gap,” Pellegrini told reporters during his own press conference.

“We tried, but we couldn’t. We still have 45 points more to play (for). I said before the game also that this was a very important game, (but) it was not a final.

“So we have time to try to recover those five points. In the way we continue playing, the way we did today (Saturday), I think it will be more easy.”

– ‘We played to win’ –

Silva’s 45th-minute equaliser stemmed from an error by usually unflappable Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who came for Jesus Navas’s right-wing cross and missed the ball completely.

Sergio Aguero’s drilled follow-up looked to be flying wide of the right-hand post, but Silva flew in to stab it home.

Remy, deputising for the suspended Costa, had put Chelsea ahead four minutes earlier, tapping in from close range after Branislav Ivanovic’s deep cross was volleyed back across goal by Eden Hazard.

Chelsea mustered only three attempts at goal, the fewest by a home team in the English top flight this season and their lowest total in a Premier League game since the 2003-04 campaign.

But although Pellegrini felt that his side had done more to win the game, he stopped short of saying Chelsea had played for a draw.

“I don’t know what happened with Chelsea,” he said. “I think that from the first minute, we came for the three points.

“We made some changes to continue trying to create space against a team who defend very well very near their box, that is very dangerous also on the counter-attack, so we cannot just think (about) attacking.

“That was the most important thing, although they didn’t have any chance to have the fast counter-attack that they always do.

“I’m not saying Chelsea played for a draw. I’m saying our team played to win.”

Mourinho’s decision to duck his press conference meant that there was no news about the condition of Chelsea’s Brazilian midfielder Willian, who was forced off by injury in the latter stages.

Photo Credits : AFP

Chelsea boss Mourinho plays down quadruple talk

Jose Mourinho insists his Chelsea stars must ignore talk of a potential quadruple because it is virtually impossible to win all the major prizes.

Mourinho’s side will look to keep their challenge for the FA Cup on course when they face third tier Bradford at Stamford Bridge in the fourth round on Saturday and if, as expected, they advance to the last 16 there will be renewed talk of Chelsea hoovering up all four trophies.

The Blues are top of the Premier League, face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League second round and host Liverpool in the League Cup semi-final second leg next week after a securing a valuable 1-1 draw in the first leg.

But Chelsea manager Mourinho believes the inevitable fixture congestion that comes with long runs in the domestic cup competitions will prove an insurmountable hurdle.

“It’s very difficult,” Mourinho said. “A team that plays the League Cup final will have one game in the Premier League postponed. A team that plays the FA Cup semi-final will have a game postponed. A team that gets a draw in the FA Cup has to play another game.

“If a team is in all these competitions plus the European competition until the end of the season, there will arrive a moment in April, May where it will be so difficult that I would say almost impossible.”

Chelsea are bidding to win the FA Cup for a fifth time in nine years, but with the Liverpool clash and then a huge showdown against title rivals Manchester City looming next week, Mourinho will make several changes against Bradford.

“We have two knockout matches in three days, so after Tuesday we can be in four competitions or only two. Of course we want to try to be in all four,” Mourinho said.

“The third match is just a Premier League match, one of 38, and that is different. It doesn’t decide anything, but Bradford and Liverpool, yes. They decide if we are still in the competition.”

– Liverpool’s Heskey reunion –

Resurgent Liverpool, unbeaten in nine games in all competitions, face a reunion with former striker Emile Heskey when they welcome second-division Bolton Wanderers to Anfield.

The 37-year-old former England striker joined Bolton in December after a two-year spell with Australian club Newcastle Jets.

“Emile has been fantastic since he walked through the door,” said Bolton manager Neil Lennon, whose side are currently 15th in the Championship.

“He had a bit to prove when he came back here and he’s doing that. There’s plenty of football left in him and he’s been a big bonus for us.”

Manchester City also face Championship opposition in the form of Middlesbrough, while there are two all-Premier League ties, with Southampton entertaining Crystal Palace and Leicester City visiting Tottenham Hotspur.

Holders Arsenal, meanwhile, will approach their trip to second-division Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday with renewed vigour after an impressive 2-0 victory at Manchester City in the Premier League last weekend.

“For us the challenge is to turn up with the same spirit and show that we can be consistent with our attitude game by game,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

“In the FA Cup, god knows that is needed. We know that it will be another big challenge for us to go there and come home with a positive result.”

Wenger has revealed that German playmaker Mesut Ozil is likely to start at the Amex Stadium as he steps up his rehabilitation following a three-month absence with a knee injury.

Fixtures

Saturday (1500 GMT unless otherwise stated):

Birmingham City v West Bromwich Albion, Blackburn Rovers v Swansea City (1245 GMT), Cardiff City v Reading, Chelsea v Bradford City, Derby County v Chesterfield, Liverpool v Bolton Wanderers (1730 GMT), Manchester City v Middlesbrough, Preston North End v Sheffield United, Southampton v Crystal Palace, Sunderland v Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City

Sunday:

Aston Villa v Bournemouth (1500 GMT), Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal (1600 GMT), Bristol City v West Ham United (1400 GMT)

Monday (2000 GMT):

Rochdale v Stoke City

Photo Credits : AFP

Mourinho backs Cech to stay ahead of Hull start

Out-of-favour goalkeeper Petr Cech will not leave Chelsea in January and has nothing to prove ahead of his first Premier League start of the season against Hull City, manager Jose Mourinho said.

The Czech international had been Chelsea’s number one for the last 10 years before Thibaut Courtois, who returned from a loan at Atletico Madrid, took his place at the start of the season.

There has been mounting media speculation that Cech would leave Stamford Bridge during the January transfer window in search of first-team action.

Mourinho, however, wants Cech to stay and is backing the 32-year-old who regains his position in place of the injured Courtois.

“I don’t think it’s possible (that Cech will leave),” Mourinho told a news conference on Friday. “I read a couple of weeks ago his agent saying there was no chance of him leaving Chelsea in January.

“That, plus the fact that I have no information about any offer to him, makes me believe 100 per cent that he’s staying.

 

Newcastle ends Chelsea’s 23-match unbeaten run

Newcastle United ended Chelsea’s 23-match unbeaten run as Papiss Cisse scored two second-half goals in a tense 2-1 win over the Premier League leaders on Saturday.

Cisse, who came on as a substitute after the break, tapped in Newcastle’s first after 57 minutes and struck again on the break 20 minutes later, seconds after Eden Hazard had been denied an equaliser by the woodwork.

Newcastle were reduced to 10 men shortly afterwards when Steven Taylor was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Andre Schuerrle before substitute Didier Drogba gave Chelsea hope of a comeback with a majestic header after 83 minutes.

Chelsea applied late pressure in a nerve-jangling six minutes of stoppage time but their hopes of stretching their unbeaten run to a new club record were thwarted by dogged Newcastle resistance and a brilliant fingertip save by substitute keeper Jak Alnwick on his competitive debut.

Defeat for Jose Mourinho’s side, their first since the second leg of last season’s Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, means champions Manchester City can close the gap to three points if they beat Everton at home later.