Mourinho puts midfield trio on mettle

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The Independent Football

Speaking in an interview in the current issue of Chelsea magazine, the club's manager, Jose Mourinho, acknowledged the difficulties of accommodating the trio simultaneously.

"It is very difficult to play with the three of them at the same time," he said. "Of course I know that Cole can play in the centre of midfield, but normally to keep the shape of our team, of these three players, only two will play. [William] Gallas, [Ricardo] Carvalho, [Robert] Huth and [John] Terry, from these four only two will be on the pitch, but we need that competition."

He added: "A player cannot think, 'Because I was good, I have my place and because I have my place I don't need to have the same commitment'."

Even with that commitment, he believes Chelsea will find it more difficult to defend the Premiership title than it was to win it. "It will be harder because other teams understand how strong we are. If they are the same they know they have no chance."

Winning the Premiership remains his primary objective, he confirmed. "I keep saying that the winners of European competitions are not always the best team," he said. "In knock-out competitions there is always the space for a surprise, for an unfair situation. For example, Liverpool had 37 points less than us in the Premiership, but they are European champions. The team that wins the domestic league is always the best."

Maintaining their challenge involved luring Frank Arnesen from Tottenham to oversee recruitment, and the Dutchman said that difficulties over trying to attract leading players to Spurs was one reason behind him joining Chelsea.

"I have been at a club where we were always at the back of the queue," he said. "Chelsea and Arsenal were always at the front of the queue signing the big players. I didn't like that. I always wanted to be the one signing the big players and I know that joining Chelsea will now give me that chance."

Among those players could be Shaun Wright-Phillips. Mourinho's Arsenal counterpart Arsène Wenger has spoken of his frustration at waiting for Chelsea to make their move for the Manchester Citymidfielder.

"I like Wright-Phillips very much," Wenger said, "but we are in a transfer market where you first have to let Chelsea make decisions, then come in when they have made that decision. That is because there is a price for Chelsea and a price for everybody else."

The Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, is reported to be interested in signing Chelsea's defender Gallas. However, the player's agent Pierre Frelot was sceptical about Liverpool's chances yesterday.

"Liverpool and Barcelona both enquired, but there is no offer and Chelsea don't want to sell," he said.