Jose Mourinho has voiced his dismay at the way international friendlies have ruined Chelsea's preparations in the build-up to the Premiership season.
As unconfirmed rumours circulated of an offer from Chelsea for the Liverpool midfielder John Arne Riise, who scored against Mourinho's side in the Community Shield on Sunday, Mourinho trained with just a handful of first-team players at Cobham yesterday, leaving him unimpressed with the international calendar. The organisation of national team fixtures close to the start of the domestic season has brought much criticism from managers in previous years.
But because of the World Cup this summer, the Premiership is beginning a week later than normal. As a result, this season's first round of international fixtures takes place before most of England's top flight have kicked a ball in anger.
Ukraine's decision to rest the striker Andrei Shevchenko increased the numbers slightly but Mourinho was still missing the vast majority of his top players.
He said: "Nigeria are not playing because they don't have a coach yet and Portugal is not playing a friendly game. That is intelligent.
"The players should be with their teams before the season starts, not with the national team, so I think the Portuguese coach [Luiz Felipe Scolari] was clever. It is the week of day one in the Premiership. Every coach wants to work with their teams, especially us with less than two weeks' pre-season. If I am going to count how many training sessions I will have had before day one, it will be something like 20 sessions. The week we want to work we don't have."
Mourinho is hoping all of Chelsea's internationals are given lengthy workouts during the friendlies as he fears their fitness levels will drop even further. He said: "The players will come back on Thursday afternoon, but it will be after a game so they cannot work. Friday is a recovery day so no ball work. We have a game on Sunday so on Saturday we cannot work much and next week we have two matches, Middlesbrough and Blackburn away. So we cannot work, only play."
Mourinho still does not know whether he will have Ashley Cole by the time the Premiership starts. Talks between Chelsea and Arsenalappear to have become deadlocked over the fee, with Chelsea offering £5m less than Arsenal's £25m valuation.
However, good news for Mourinho concerned the Ghana midfielder Michael Essien. He played 90 minutes for his country in the 2-0 win over Togo last night despite a broken bone in his wrist. He showed no signs of discomfort and is likely to be fit to face Manchester City on Sunday.Reuse content