Chelsea v Southampton
Tomorrow: Stamford Bridge, 1.30pm
TV: Sky Sports 1
Jose Mourinho rounded on Chelsea’s detractors as he refused to dwell on the Champions League exit and the accompanying criticism.
The Blues, who exited the last-16 to Paris St Germain on away goals on Wednesday, are five points clear of Manchester City with a game in hand in their bid for a first Premier League title in five years.
Mourinho’s men have 11 games to play, beginning with Sunday’s match at home to Southampton, and the Blues boss stressed he was an optimist looking to the future.
He took a swipe at the fickle nature of the media – those who earlier in the season predicted a Chelsea quadruple, but are now critical – and television pundits Jamie Carragher and Graeme Souness, in particular.
In a clearly rehearsed line, Mourinho said: “Envy is the biggest tribute that the shadows do to the man.
“Our situation is good. It’s better than anybody else’s. Everyone would love to be in our position.
“Chelsea are top of the league since day one. Chelsea are not playing now at the same level we were playing for many months, but for many months we played better than anyone.
“You (the media) go with the wind. In that moment the wind was in one direction where you were all saying Chelsea were a candidate to win the Champions League.
“You were saying Chelsea had conditions to win every competition.
“We cannot play fantastic all season. We had our lowest point in terms of performance in a moment where we couldn’t have it.
“The people that lost, who were out of the Champions League last Wednesday, are the same people who have been top of the Premier League since day one, the same people who won the Capital One Cup, are the same people who are going to win the Premier League.”
The Portuguese’s faith in his squad remains and he insisted all of his players want to play against Southampton. John Obi Mikel (knee) remains out.
He added: “My (team) doctor told me, after the game, maybe tomorrow we’ll have a few injuries. Why? ‘Because we lost, because people are sad’.
“I told the doctor ’I don’t believe (that)’. (We have) zero injuries. Everybody wants to play. Not like some journalists, when they write bulls*** and then, the next press conference, they don’t come. My players don’t do that. They want to play.”
Much of the criticism of Chelsea, whose 2-2 draw, 3-3 on aggregate, saw them exit on the away goals, centred on the response to the tackle which saw PSG striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic sent off.
Nine Blues players surrounded Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers, with Souness branding the incident “pathetic” and his fellow former Liverpool player Carragher saying it was “disgraceful”.
“Memories are getting shorter,” said Mourinho, who refused to respond to Ibrahimovic calling Chelsea players “babies”. “Jamie stopped playing a couple of years ago and in two years he forgot everything on the pitch.”
On Souness, who was manager at Benfica prior to Mourinho, the Blues boss said: “I know a lot about him.”
He then kept his counsel.
Even in relation to his players’ conduct, Mourinho accentuated the positive, pointing out Chelsea have been fined only once – £30,000 following the match with Everton last month – for such an offence this season.
“If they surround the referee, we are charged, we have to pay a fine,” the Portuguese said.
“If we do that the players play the fine. We were charged once.”
December’s first fixture with Southampton was controversial, with Mourinho fined £25,000 for saying there was a “clear campaign” against his side after Cesc Fabregas was denied a penalty and instead booked for diving.
The suspensions of Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic – for treading on Emre Can of Liverpool and pushing Burnley’s Ashley Barnes, respectively – only served to heighten Mourinho’s sense of injustice. “We move on,” Mourinho said. “The referee (on Sunday, Mike Dean) is a good one.”
Mourinho, who refused to reveal the content of Thursday’s post-PSG debrief with his squad, insisted they have moved on.
Mourinho said: “Maybe it’s a unique case to be out without a single defeat. We played eight matches, lost zero, but we were not good enough so we are out.
“We spoke in that moment about our future: to try and win the Premier League.
“If we do that, a season with a Premier League and a Capital One Cup is a brilliant season.
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