LONDON • Jose Mourinho has heaped praise on Swansea City manager Garry Monk in the build-up to the Welsh club's visit to Stamford Bridge for their Premier League opener against Chelsea today.
"Garry's got a good team already but he's improved the team," the Portuguese manager said. "It's a very good team and he's a very good young manager at a club that I admire a lot."
Big compliments for Monk and the Swansea team but then Mourinho usually has no hesitation in praising opponents he does not see as too much of a threat, noted the South Wales Evening Post.
And given that Chelsea scored nine goals in their two meetings with Swansea last season, a feeling of confidence in the home camp come kick-off time today would be understandable.
Monk, however, is not going to let Chelsea dictate terms this time around. His game plan would be to contain the Blues. He knows well that his side cannot go toe to toe with Eden Hazard and Co.
Last season, Swansea showed that they can grind out results without playing pressing, possession football, which has been their hallmark.
And they will hope to take advantage of Chelsea's rather mediocre pre-season, where Mourinho's men failed to win any of their five games in 90 minutes. They included last Sunday's Community Shield tie against London rivals Arsenal.
But, under Mourinho, Chelsea rarely lose at home, In fact, in his two stints at the club, he has seen his team fail to get some sort of result at Stamford Bridge just once.
Swansea will have to play really well to dent that record but will consider their chances bright given that Chelsea's main striker Diego Costa is unlikely to feature.
The Spaniard's 20 goals in 26 league appearances were crucial as Mourinho's side took an early grip on last season's title race that they never relinquished.
But concerns about the Spain striker's fitness became a recurring theme throughout the campaign.
It frequently took the brilliance of Hazard to make up for the side's diminished attacking threat whenever Costa was absent.
And the sight of Costa limping out of a recent friendly with Barcelona with a hamstring injury, followed by his enforced absence from the Community Shield game, prompted fresh concerns that the former Atletico Madrid star's problems have not yet gone away.
Mourinho has stuck by his policy of operating with a squad who include just three strikers, with Radamel Falcao arriving on loan from Monaco to join Loic Remy as back-up.
But, given the duo's leaden-footed performances in pre-season, Chelsea's attacking options appear under-powered.
And, speaking at a Premier League launch event this week, Swansea captain Ashley Williams said: "At the moment, the most difficult Premier League striker to play against is Diego Costa, he scored a few goals against us last season. He's one you don't look forward to playing against...
"Whatever 11 they field is world- class so it doesn't matter too much, but obviously if he didn't play, it would be a bonus for us."
Swansea are hoping to build on last season's success of finishing eighth in Monk's first full year in the hot seat.
The arrival of Andre Ayew from Marseille should provide an additional attacking threat.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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