London - Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho refused to confirm or deny whether he will pick a significantly weakened team to play leaders Liverpool on Sunday in a match that could effectively decide the Premier League title.
Chelsea are five points behind with three games to play and Mourinho has suggested he would give priority to the Champions League semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.
After the first leg, a goalless draw in Madrid, he threatened to “play the kids” at Liverpool, keeping his senior players fresh for the game at Stamford Bridge.
That would infuriate Manchester City, who are six points behind Liverpool but have a game in hand and want a Chelsea win on Sunday. It could also lead to sanctions from the Premier League or the Football Association.
Asked about his selection at a news conference on Friday, Mourinho said: “Wait for Sunday and on Sunday you will know our team. The most important thing for me is my club and the supporters of my club. I have to defend my club and I have to defend Chelsea supporters.”
The Portuguese manager has regularly complained this season that Chelsea have not been helped by the football authorities as he claims teams representing other countries are, in having domestic matches moved to give more preparation time for big Champions League games.
“If we are not helped to try to follow our dreams and objectives, one more reason for us to try to think about us and only about us,” he said.
“Chelsea fans think Chelsea deserve more respect than they are getting. They are the most important football club in this country in European competitions.”
Chelsea could still field a team of internationals at Anfield. Frank Lampard and Jon Obi Mikel are both suspended for the Champions League match, while Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah are ineligible.
But important players like Petr Cech, John Terry, Eden Hazard, Ramires and Samuel Eto'o are all unavailable for Anfield.
Mourinho dismissed speculation that he could be a candidate to replace David Moyes as next manager of Manchester United.
“I told Chelsea they never have to worry about me because I don't want to leave,” he said. “I stay as long as the club wants me to stay.” – Reuters