Liverpool v Chelsea: Jose Mourinho admits he may have to play 'the kids' - but it might not be that bad for the Chelsea manager
Mourinho would have to start Azpilicueta and Ivanovic against both Liverpool and Atletico Madrid but the Blues manager has enough players on his hands to swap every other player
Jose Mourinho sent a warning to the Premier League following his Chelsea side’s 0-0 Champions League draw with Atletico Madrid by claiming he could be forced to play “the kids” in Sunday’s title showdown with Liverpool, due to their second leg coming just three days later.
Mourinho surprised many when he admitted he might have to select those players who will not start the home-leg of the Atletico clash to face Liverpool at Anfield as he looks to secure a third Champions League crown following his successes with Porto and Inter Milan.
Speaking at his post-match press conference, Mourinho said: “If we have to play the kids, we play the kids.
“I can't decide by myself. That's a decision I have to listen to the club. I'm just the manager and I have to listen to the club. The fact that the match is on Sunday, I think puts the problem not in my hands but in the hands of those who decide the game should be on Sunday and not Saturday or Friday.
“We represent English football and are the only team in European competitions. Spain has four and gave them all the conditions to try to have success, so I know what I would do. But I'm not the club. I have to speak to them. I would play with the players who are not going to play Wednesday [against Atletico].”
When pushed why he felt this way, Mourinho added: “I'm not the most important person in the club ... everybody is above me. I work for them and have to follow what my club decides.”
But does Mourinho have a point when he considers ‘playing the kids’? Midfielders Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel have already ruled themselves out of the second leg against Atletico after picking up yellow cars in the Spanish capital, while Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah remain cup-tied, so the foursome are almost certain to start.
With Petr Cech suffering a shoulder injury that has abruptly ended his season, Mark Schwarzer looks set to continue in goal having played in the 2-1 defeat to Sunderland last weekend, and John Terry is not expected to return before the Champions League final – should Chelsea make it.
There was some good news as Mourinho confirmed Branislav Ivanovic will be fit to return this weekend, and the Serbian will likely be deployed at centre-back rather than Mourinho’s preference this season of on the right of defence.
Read more: Mourinho threatens to play the 'kids' against Liverpool
Cole and Blues' old guard draw on experience
Atletico 0 Chelsea 0 match report
With Marco van Ginkel back from a long-term knee injury and Demba Ba showing glimpse of a return to form with two goals in the wins over Paris St-Germain and Swansea, Mourinho does have some options available, although he will have to piece together a makeshift defence if he wants to rest Wednesday’s line-up – not the ideal situation when taking on the Premier League’s top scorers this season.
Eden Hazard is likely to return against Atletico, meaning Andre Schurrle could start at Anfield, and the Blues will certainly have goals in their midfield – should Mourinho set-up to go for the win that would put them back in the hunt for the title.
Possible line-up v Liverpool:
Mark Schwarzer; Cesar Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovic, Tomas Kalas, Nathan Ake; John Obi Mikel, Nemanja Matic; Andre Schurrle, Frank Lampard, Mohamed Salah; Demba Ba.
Possible line-up v Atletico Madrid:
Mark Schwarzer; Cesar Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole; Ramires, David Luiz; Willian, Oscar, Eden Hazard; Fernando Torres.
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