Chelsea v Liverpool
Tomorrow: Stamford Bridge, 4pm
TV: Sky Sports 1
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is sad to be facing “favourite enemy” Steven Gerrard for the last time and credits the Liverpool stalwart for making him a better coach.
After 17 years as a professional at Anfield, the Reds captain has just three matches remaining before starting a new chapter in Major League Soccer with Los Angeles Galaxy at the age of 34.
Mourinho is sad to see the former England captain make the move Stateside and is more interested in paying tribute to the midfielder this Sunday than the guard of honour the champions are set to receive.
“Liverpool is Liverpool — it is a giant club,” the Portuguese said.
“If they want to do that (form a guard of honour), obviously my players are going to accept that with respect.
“But speaking about Liverpool and speaking about honouring the champions, this is my time to honour a champion. It is my time to honour Steve Gerrard.
“It is with opponents like him that I am the manager that I am, because I learn with my players and I learn with my best opponents.
“Steven Gerrard is for sure one of my favourite enemies — an enemy with all the good feeling I can express with that word in football. For sure, in England he is my dear enemy. For sure, he is the one that made me a better manager. To stop him or try and stop him has been very, very difficult.”
Mourinho spoke in the pre-match press conference about the battles he has had over the years with Gerrard — someone he has tried to sign on more than one occasion.
“I tried to bring him to Chelsea, I tried to bring him to Inter (Milan), I tried to bring him to Real Madrid but he was always a dear enemy,” he said.
“I want to honour him and I hope Stamford Bridge has the same feeling as I have, which is we need people like him as our opponents.”
Mourinho guided Chelsea to a first Premier League title in five years last weekend and reports this week suggest a new deal is in the offing.
Mourinho is halfway through the four-year contract signed on his return to the club in June 2013 and is in no hurry to sign a new one as he is not going anywhere.
“I don’t need a contract,” the Portuguese said.
“Mr Abramovich, in my opinion, has to be very calm because he has me.
“I am very, very calm, so he doesn’t have to be worried. He has me. If he wants me stay, I am staying. If he wants me to leave, I leave.”
For his part, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is resigned to being without striker Daniel Sturridge until September at the earliest.
“We hope he is available to train in September and then it is about getting his fitness in,” Rodgers said.
“It is not just about fitness but football fitness and that takes a bit of time. Obviously it is a long period of time out but we hope the problem and issues have been resolved with the operation.
“Once he’s fully fit we know what he can produce and if he is at that level of fitness he can certainly be a key player for us.”
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