Champions League Group G
Maribor v Chelsea
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has suggested he would not follow the approach of Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers in selecting a weakened team to face “the most difficult opponents”.
Rodgers rested key personnel for last night’s clash with reigning European champions Real Madrid, including captain Steven Gerrard and star forward Raheem Sterling, who were substitutes.
It was an indication Rodgers is prioritising Premier League leaders Chelsea’s trip to Anfield on Saturday lunchtime.
Real won 1-0 at the Bernabeu on Tuesday evening against the Reds, who will enter Saturday’s showdown having had 24 hours more rest than Chelsea and with their hopes of Champions League progression hinging on the final two group games, against Bulgaria’s Ludogorets and Swiss side Basle.
Mourinho, whose Blues play Maribor in Group G tonight, said prior to Liverpool’s match: “If Liverpool decide to rest players when they play against the European champions it’s a question for the Liverpool manager, it’s not a question for me.
“I don’t speak about Liverpool. I speak about myself. If one day I go to a game and I don’t feel I can win, maybe I don’t go.
“Normally, against the most difficult opponents, normally I will try to go with my best team.”
Chelsea are in a stronger position domestically and in Europe than Liverpool, having beaten Slovenian champions Maribor 6-0 two weeks ago at Stamford Bridge as part of their unbeaten 15-match start to the season.
If Chelsea win and Sporting Lisbon do not beat Schalke, Mourinho’s men advance with two matches to spare and will be in pole position to finish top of the standings and claim a favourable last-16 draw.
Mourinho feels a responsibility for Chelsea to perform at Maribor, in an ominous warning to hosts for whom merely reaching the group stages is an achievement.
“I like this concept of going with a big club, full of big players to a country, a stadium, a city where normally they don’t come,” Mourinho added.
“To come here, to play here, I think we have responsibility to play for us and also to play for the people.
“I know they want to win – they don’t want us to win – but to play for the people is to play well, and to show what we can do, to show the quality players we have, to show the quality team we have.”
Meanwhile, Mourinho has admitted his criticism of Chelsea’s home support may have gone too far but stressed it was an emotional response tied to his affection for the club.
The Blues boss felt like Chelsea were playing in an “empty stadium” for the first half hour of last Saturday’s 2-1 Premier League win over QPR.
Supporters have responded in varying degrees of anger, bemusement and frustration – as well as agreement – to Mourinho’s jibe.
“This is not, for me, just a job. It is more than that, because it’s Chelsea,” Mourinho added.
“Maybe I go a little bit too far. But I see myself in the stands, watching Chelsea and I want to play, I want to help.
“If I’m not a player I cannot play, if I’m not a coach I cannot make decisions. If I’m just a fan what can I do to help? That’s just my view.”
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