Mourinho takes aim at misfiring strikers

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Chelsea have been inconsistent this season. Picture: Michael Regan/Getty Images

London – Jose Mourinho is desperate to fire up his shot-shy strikers when Chelsea return to Premier League action against Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

The club's three main forwards, Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba, have managed just four league goals between them this season.

And Blues boss Mourinho has already expressed his frustration at his side's lack of cutting edge in front of goal, which was again apparent in last weekend's 3-2 defeat at Stoke.

That result that meant Mourinho's side slipped to third place in the Premier League table, five points behind leaders Arsenal.

The 1-0 midweek victory over Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League meant Chelsea quickly returned to winning ways and ensured they advanced to the knockout stage of the competition as group winners.

But while Ba's strike was enough to see off Steaua, it was another underwhelming display in front of goal from the Blues and brought a reminder from Mourinho that the Senegal striker must improve his overall return – a message that could also be directed at Torres and Eto'o.

“He could do better,” Mourinho said when asked about Ba. “He got his goal, it's a good feeling for him. He never played in the Champions League before; this is the first season he has played.

“And he has two goals in the Champions League, which is nice for him. More goals in the Champions League than in the Premier League.”

Having criticised his team's defending recently, Mourinho must decide whether to change his back-four despite the clean sheet against Steaua after Ashley Cole and David Luiz both made their return after lengthy absences.

One change Mourinho will definitely make will be to recall Petr Cech in goal in place of Mark Schwarzer who at the age of 41 became the oldest player ever to make a Champions League debut this week.

The Australia international said: “It was a great opportunity for me and one that I didn't think would ever happen to me in my career.

“But once I signed for Chelsea there was always a lingering hope in the back of my mind it would happen and I'm very grateful to the manager for giving me the opportunity to play.”

Arsenal's visit to Manchester City on Saturday means Chelsea could have an opportunity to steal a march on one or both of their main rivals in the title race this weekend.

Meanwhile, Palace will make the short trip across London on a high after being transformed under new manager Tony Pulis.

Back to back victories have seen the club move off the bottom of the table with only goal difference keeping the Selhurst Park club in the relegation zone.

And Pulis, who has an enviable record of never being relegated as a manager, insists the meeting with Chelsea provides his side with the opportunity to continue their survival battle without the pressure of expectation.

Pulis, who has denied an interest in Blackburn striker Jordan Rhodes, said: “They play fantastic football and have some top, top players there.

“We're concentrating on Chelsea then we'll move on to the next one. Confidence is high at the moment.

“The pressure is off us. Nobody expects us to go to Chelsea and win.

“I expect Chelsea to be a lot stronger in the second half of the season. The acid test for us will be what we do over the next four or five weeks.” – Sapa-AFP


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