Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho admits he’s made a mess of his pre-season planning, and claims his expensive squad may find themselves stretched at Cardiff tomorrow. Trying to soften the blow of any loss, he also tries to make out that Liverpool will be trying to win, whereas his mainly unfit and poorly trained squad won’t be particularly bothered.
Some of his own supporters may even believe him, but not many will. When he arrived in England a the same time as Rafael Benítez, a lot of journalists and pundits, as well as many neutral fans, were prepared to show him some respect. Two years of throwaway, transparent comments like this later and most people laugh at what he says. The unfortunate thing for Jose Mourinho is that he’ll continue with these comments, blissfully unaware of just how funny most people find his words.
Speaking about the Reds, Mourinho said: “They will feel that they are in much better condition than Chelsea, so they have to win the game. If they lose against a Chelsea side at just 50% of their quality, that could affect their confidence ahead of the Premiership season.”
It seems that Mourinho is preparing himself, his fans and (more importantly than anything at Chelsea) a certain Russian for a loss, but perhaps also for a rough season in the league. The most wealthy club in the league seem to have had problems planning their preparations for the new season: “Every other team – even the ones not competing for the Premiership – have been working for more than a month. They will all start the Premiership on fire and we are not in the same condition.” I’ve looked at that statement a few times now and still can’t work out why Mourinho would need to say it – who is to blame if Chelsea haven’t turned back up to training as early?
At times Mourinho acts like a toddler, today he sounds like a depressed teenager: “I just have to hope that the quality we have on the pitch will be enough to get us through.”
Rafa Benítez won’t fall for the mind games though. Mourinho had earlier said that Liverpool wouldn’t challenge Chelsea this season, something Rafa isn’t in agreement with. As for tomorrow’s game, Rafa knows Mourinho is privately in fear of losing, and losing in style. He doesn’t say that, he’s far too modest a man, but he does point out that Liverpool are close enough to Chelsea to be able to win any clash between the two sides: “They spend more than everybody else every summer, but when we put a side on the pitch against them they know we will match them. We have beaten them in cup competitions, it does not matter how much money they spend, 11 against 11 for us always gives us a chance.”
Rafa also spoke about the performance in midweek which saw debut goals for Craig Bellamy and Mark Gonzalez, and an excellent debut for Jermaine Pennant: “People could see the improvements against Maccabi Haifa in the Champions League, although we know we need too improve. We could see the quality with Jermaine Pennant, we have seen Craig Bellamy score and play well, and we still have Fabio Aurelio waiting as he recovers from injury. I think we have signed the right players. Compared to last season we have a better squad and week after week we will have a better team as well.”
As well missing Aurelio tomorrow with a calf injury, it also looks like the number nine Robbie Fowler is going to miss out again. He was omitted on Wednesday because of a slight knee problem, and although he is close to being ready for the clash, Rafa does not want to take a chance on him or Aurelio: “If they really had to play they would, but it is not important for this game, we would rather wait until next weekend.”