The Big Match

Blues haven't turned corner yet: Mourinho

Manager says his players have much catching up to do after dropping many points in league

LONDON • John Terry remains a major doubt for Chelsea ahead of their critical London derby against Tottenham Hotspur tomorrow, after Jose Mourinho confirmed his captain had been forced to miss training yesterday.

Terry suffered an ankle injury in the midweek Champions League victory against Maccabi Tel Aviv, damage the manager put down to the poor surface at the Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa.

The 34-year-old will be assessed today and is expected to undergo a fitness test ahead of the game at White Hart Lane.

If Terry is absent, Mourinho maintains he has confidence in his available centre-backs.

"I have complete trust in (Gary) Cahill and (Kurt) Zouma," he said.

"That's why, in a fundamental match for us last Tuesday, I left Zouma out after good performances to play Gary and to show Gary that confidence. They are ready."

NO RESPITE YET

But the reality is we need points, the same way we needed points last season when we were top of the table and fighting to be champions.
 

JOSE MOURINHO, Chelsea manager

Ramires is also a concern for the weekend fixture after picking up a slight muscular injury in training at the stadium in Israel.

Despite success in the last two games, against Norwich City and Maccabi Tel Aviv, Mourinho insisted that Chelsea are still not back at their best. He conceded there is still considerable progress to be made before their campaign is deemed to be back on track.

Asked if his team had "turned a corner" after those recent victories, the Portuguese replied: "No. I think Chelsea is a big club, and big clubs have difficult moments.

"Big clubs cope with difficult moments and try to build again, to have good moments again.

"I prefer to say that we have to play every match as if we are fighting for the title.

"But the reality is we need points, the same way we needed points last season when we were top of the table and fighting to be champions.

"Every point between now and the end of the season can make a difference. We've lost so many already... we've to fight even more."

Mourinho was also quick to praise Tottenham's bright opening to the season, with Mauricio Pochettino's team currently on a 12-match unbeaten run, the longest in the top flight this term.

"When I watch them play, it's not a surprise for me (that Spurs are so high in the table)," he added.

"If they say they are fighting for the title, I would not laugh. I would accept it because the team is very good. The manager is very good."

But he insisted that Tottenham's cause cannot be helped by the Premier League, after Pochettino urged the league to help clubs who have to travel for midweek Europa League matches.

"We played a Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid in one week," Mourinho said.

"We played Wednesday and we played Tuesday. In the middle of these two matches, we had to play against Liverpool.

"Our country decided that it was not a problem for us to play Saturday or Sunday, so we played Sunday, before the second leg of the Champions League, which is the biggest competition in the world.

"If this country in that moment decided it was not a problem for Chelsea, why is it a problem now for Tottenham?

"And that Champions League semi-final was at the end of the season, where the legs are a bit heavier than November."

THE GUARDIAN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2015, with the headline 'BLUES HAVEN'T TURNED CORNER YET: MOURINHO'. Print Edition | Subscribe