at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
MADRID – Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho hinted he will rest a number of key players for his side’s crucial Premier League game away to Liverpool on Sunday to concentrate his squad’s efforts on the Champions League.
Mourinho’s men hung on for a 0-0 draw away to Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their semi-final on Tuesday night to make them favourites to reach a third final in six years.
However, a clean sheet came at a cost as Mourinho confirmed goalkeeper Petr Cech and captain John Terry will miss the second leg due to injuries that forced them to be replaced at the Vicente Calderon.
Chelsea trail leaders Liverpool by five points with three games to go in the Premier League and Mourinho said he would name a weakened side should he be given permission by his superiors at the club.
“My priority is the Champions League,” said the Portuguese.
“I can’t decide by myself. I think that is a decision where I have to listen to the club. I am just a piece, the manager, no more than that and I have to listen to the club.
“I know what I would do. I would play the players that are not going to play on Wednesday.
“I am not the most important person at the club. I work for the people who are above me and I have to follow the decision of the club.”
Mourinho also launched an attack on the Premier League’s decision makers for forcing his side to play on Sunday, just four days before the return leg.
“I think the fact the match is on Sunday puts the problem not in my hands but in the hands in people who decided the game is not on Friday or Saturday but on Sunday.
“We are representing English football. Unfortunately we have only one English team in European competition. Spain has four and they still gave Atletico all the conditions to allow them to succeed.”
Mourinho set out with a very defensive looking line-up at the Calderon as Ramires and Willian played wide to prevent Atletico’s full-backs rampaging forward, while John Obi Mikel and David Luiz added extra muscle in midfield.
However, the former Real Madrid boss insisted he did not set his side out solely with the intention of keeping the scoreline blank.
“Nobody starts a game thinking about a 0-0, but sometimes the game goes in a certain direction where you feel you have to be safe, not concede and try to score in one of the few chances you have.
“We had four corners and a few dangerous free kicks and if you score in one of those chances the result is very good.
“We didn’t, but we made sure everything depends on the result in Stamford Bridge.”
Atletico boss Diego Simeone was understanding of Chelsea’s tactics despite seeing his side’s efforts to make a breakthrough thwarted.
“It was a difficult game and one very typical of the semi-finals of the Champions League in which neither side was able to take an advantage,” he said.
“We offered different style of play, but we couldn’t find the goal to win the game.
“Every one chooses their own way of playing according to the players you have at your disposal and in the end they got a positive result.” – Sapa-AFP