Fun and games for Jose, just don't mention Barca

Click to follow
The Independent Football

After today's FA Cup tie against Colchester United Jose Mourinho will present Phil Parkinson, the manager of the League One side, with the detailed dossier that is prepared on all of Chelsea's opponents by his scout Andre Villas Boas. He made the same gesture to Scunthorpe United's Brian Laws last season.

Presumably the Chelsea manager will withhold the file if there is a replay, and it will be handed over only if two conditions are fulfilled. "If he asks me," Mourinho says, "and if he promises it's for him and not for eBay."

It's Friday afternoon at Chel-sea's training ground at Cobham and Mourinho, having answered questions on the appalling state of Chelsea's "potato" pitch - teasing that it will be ripped up immediately after the final whistle this evening and a new one laid to accommodate complaints - is in playful mood.

That is until he is asked whether he will make the same dossier offer to the Barcelona coach, Frank Rijkaard. "No, no," is Mourinho's immediate, straight- faced reply. Two matches in four days, and however much Mourinho insists on his own variation of "taking each game as it comes" - "for me the most important is the next one [match]" - he and everyone else knows that it is Wednesday's Champions' League rematch with Barcelona that is consuming.

Not that he is professing it. "I don't know why people are speaking so much about Chelsea and Barcelona when you have Bayern Munich against Milan for example," he says. "Big matches. Big matches." But no tie has the dimensions of what Chelsea are about to embark upon, given the events of last season - from referee Anders Frisk's retirement following death threats, to Mourinho's allegations of impropriety and subsequent fine for "deliberately creating a poisoned and negative ambience". Then there was the tunnel fracas in the second leg and claims of racial abuse.

Oh and - especially at Stamford Bridge - some intoxicating football too, with Chelsea prevailing through a contentious John Terry goal. It should also not be forgotten that it was the charges brought by Uefa against Mourinho, and his perception that he was not fully backed by Chelsea, that led to his threats to quit and the hurrying forward of a stupendous new contract.

Added to the heady mix, of course, is that these sides are regarded as the strongest in the competition, and the victors will immediately be installed as favourites to win it. The vitriol has already started to drip through in the build-up. There have been Barcelona's claims that Chelsea are deliberately preparing a poor pitch, something that Mourinho dismisses as "stupid", and reports that Uefa are tomorrow set to name a Swedish referee - the same nationality as Frisk, of course - to take charge of the first leg as a statement.

Unsurprisingly Mourinho, who has problems throughout his team, with Paulo Ferreira likely to fill in at left-back, Michael Essien suspended and concerns over the fitness of both Claude Makelele and Didier Drogba, expects a close encounter. "Every tie is tight," he says of this week's fixtures. "Every tie should finish in the last minute of the second game. I don't think it's normal at this stage for somebody to beat somebody three- or four-nil and kill the tie in the first game. I think every game is a big game."

Although he speaks about the dossier he will hand over to Colchester, and claims he would not start studying the one on Barcelona until this evening, Mourinho also gives an insight into the analysis he has had to undertake following the surprise 3-0 defeat at Middlesbrough.

That performance, along with the loss in the group stages of the Champions' League away to Real Betis, were the worst two performances by Chelsea under his stewardship, thinks Mourinho. "I think Betis and Middlesbrough were very bad," he says. "I think the only difference was that Betis didn't score a second goal and they [Middlesbrough] scored a second and a third goal. I think there was a very similar approach to the game. Defensive mistakes."

Such set-backs are met with the same approach by Mourinho. Silence. He does not, he says, speak to his players at all. "After a defeat I never speak to the players in the dressing room. Never. The game finished at Middlesbrough. I went to my press conference. I went to the bus. We got home. Not one single word.

"I don't like to speak with players after defeats. Two days off. Time to relax and think and to organise my ideas, and the first day in training is a day to speak about it and to carry on."

Mourinho spent time with the club's video analyst, going back over the match at the Riverside, cutting and splicing the tape to show his squad. Six Chelsea mistakes were identified for the first goal. For the second, five defen-ders surrounded one Middlesbrough attacker from a goal-kick. For the third, four more Chelsea players were at fault.

A team meeting was held on Tuesday. The air was cleared. "I had to see the game to analyse the reasons," Mourinho says. "That's normal. I was not happy. Now it's over."

His criticism, he said, is accepted because there is a collective approach to guilt which includes himself. "I think players would be upset if I said, 'They lost' or, 'They did it wrong'," he says. "That's the only thing that is unacceptable, and I never do it because I think it's not fair and it's not correct and because it's not what I think. We failed that game. It was a very bad game for us and we have to solve it."

If they don't, Mourinho says, the consequences are very clear. "If we defend like that against Colchester we are out of the competition, and if we defend like that against Barcelona we have no chance." With the Premiership won, he said, it is four days to shape a season.


"I cannot believe it. I have heard they are making the condition of their pitch worse"

Silvinho, Barcelona Defender

"I hope that they stick four goals past Chelsea in each leg. I would not be at all sorry"

Jose Reina, Liverpool Goalkeeper