"Whatever happens, we will go back to London as heroes, so the pressure is all on them, not us." So says Jose Mourinho, as once again the argument over who’ll be under the most pressure raises its head. Mourinho contradicts himself in his interview – he says it won’t really matter if they don’t win tonight (that’s why they’ll be under less pressure than the Reds). They’ve won the league, so Chelsea fans won’t be bother if they go back knocked out of Europe: "When we play against Charlton on Saturday the players will have a big celebration and will be received as heroes because they gave them a championship."
That celebration will be good for Chelsea, whatever happens tonight, but without a place in the final there’ll be frustration for Chelsea – even if they do try to deny it. Mourinho thinks that Liverpool will be more upset to lose tonight: "I can imagine Anfield if Liverpool lose. I can imagine the meaning for their supporters so I think the pressure is on them."
The former Porto manager continued: "But even if we do lose, it will be a better feeling than the Chelsea players and managers have had for the last 49 years. It’s better to go back with the Premiership than to go back with nothing in your hands. When we left London to come to the north we had two objectives – to go back home as champions and know that we were playing in the Champions League final. The first we’ve done. The other we will see."
Mourinho continued to ramble on: "While Liverpool were able to rest players and maybe have more power in their legs, we have more power in our minds from winning the championship."
Over the weekend, Chelsea’s failed striker Kezman tried to make out that the atmosphere at Anfield was poor. He didn’t know what all the fuss was about. Mourinho tells a different story. He says he knows the atmosphere will be charged, but thinks it will actually help his players: "They will be affected in a positive way by the atmosphere." Kezman must be on the bench again then.
Mourinho was certainly affected by the noise from Liverpool fans at Cardiff – he was sent from the technical area for mouthing "shush" at the Liverpool fans. He denied it (of course) but clearly he’d been getting riled. It took a lucky own goal (scored ironically by Gerrard) to get Chelsea back into that game. Mourinho decided against mentioning Cardiff as he compared some British stadiums for atmosphere: "In my first year in England I’ve seen some fantastic atmospheres. It depends on the dimension of the stadiums but for me Portsmouth, Anfield and Old Trafford are special places to play football. One is much smaller but also special so I think it is good to come here and play, just play and enjoy the atmosphere. Of course the atmosphere is in favour of the home team but you have to play football."
Jose continued to protest a little too much about the fans not bothering his team. He said, "I relish the hostility from the fans. But they don’t play. There are 11 playersand a referee – I think a very good referee." Mourinho would say he’s a good referee – he was the ref that let Porto waste time and feign injury to the disgust of Celtic two years ago in the UEFA Cup Final. That match went to extra time and only turned Porto’s way when the referee sent a Celtic player off. The same referee sent Harry Kewell off for Leeds under controversial circumstances. Mourinho complained so much about Anders Frisk against Barcelona that the referee retired.
"As to what sort of game it will be, I have no idea. They are playing at home and will try to win." The tactical minds of the two managers will be tested to their limits. Mourinho says of his opposite number: "Rafa is a great manager who thinks and prepares the game. He knows that if they are too offensive it will be a problem. They will try to have a good balance."
Jose has told his players they can celebrate their league success as soon as they’ve played Liverpool. He said, "We deserved to celebrate the Premiership in a different way to the way we did. It was just one hour of celebrations and after that it was finished. In the dressing room I think they didn’t drink too much. It was more about shaking it out of the bottles and on to the floor and not drinking so much."
Again, as if to play down the importance of tonight’s match, Mourinho said, "It is more difficult to win the Premiership than the Champions League. You have to go all over the country in all conditions, in wind and rain, sleet and hail, on good pitches and bad. But we couldn’t celebrate. No families, no wives, no kids, no dinners, no champagne – nothing to enjoy. We just stayed in the hotel for the next three days and prepared for this game. We have to concentrate on this game. And I don’t need to motivate them."
So it’s not an important game to Chelsea. Does anyone believe that? His players won’t, Liverpool’s players won’t – but Mourinho isn’t really an honest manager is he. Not an important game, but his players don’t need motivating. His players couldn’t celebrate so they could save themselves for tonight.
The sooner the game kicks off the better, as the talk is getting out of hand.