Ahead of their trip to take on Hull City, Jose Mourinho says he is happy with his side’s progress this season, while refusing to be drawn on renewed speculation linking him with a move to bolster his squad by signing Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney.
Despite Chelsea failing in a bid for Rooney last summer, the England forward is yet to sign a new contract at Old Trafford, leading to continued rumors about a transfer to the London club. Mourinho, though, brushed off the talk ahead of the meeting between the two sides next Sunday. Before that comes the encounter with Hull, and an opportunity to, at least temporarily, go top of the Premier League. And, having recorded four wins in a row leading in to the match, Mourinho is pleased with the development of his side since he returned to Stamford Bridge.
“I think some of the oldest players are playing at a very good level, that is important, that evolution, especially for John [Terry], who last year was in a bad situation,” he explained, according to Chelsea’s official website.
“You can also feel some of the young talents coming into a different dimension, people like Oscar, Eden [Hazard] and Willian, who's just arrived. As a team I believe we are improving and in such a difficult league to be, after the fixtures we've had, in a position in the top four, after six months of work, is positive.”
Chelsea and Hull last met on the opening weekend of the season when the Blues starred on Mourinho’s return, particularly in the first half, and ran out comfortable winners 2-0. In the starting lineup that day was Kevin de Bruyne, but it appears unlikely that the young Belgian will be involved in the return fixture. Having started just four matches since, Mourinho gave the clearest sign yet that De Bruyne will be on his way out this month.
“He has a chance to go,” he said. “He's a player that we've had a couple of offers for. We will keep analyzing these offers. One of them is coming to a level where we believe it can be a good situation for the player and the club.
“We know he's a fantastic young player with lots of potential, I can say I would be happy to keep him and develop him, but we also have to analyze the player's profile, the player's personality and he wants so much to go that maybe it's a good option.”
While that opening defeat looked ominous for Hull’s chances in their first season back in the top flight, Steve Bruce has his side sitting fairly comfortably in mid-table. Tom Huddlestone has been a big part of the team’s success thus far and the midfielder will be sporting his new shorn hair after finally getting it cut following his first goal in over two years just before the New Year. But Bruce knows that Huddlestone and the rest of his team will have to be at their best to get a result on Saturday.
“The quality running through the Chelsea squad is there for everybody to see and they have the outstanding manager in Mourinho,” he said, according to Hull City’s official website. “They’re rumbling along very nicely and they’re going to be there or thereabouts in every competition because they have a manager that has proven himself to be as good as there is and he’s got a squad of players that, although in a little bit of transition, there’s no disputing the quality.”
Hull have had to deal with a sickness bug that spread through the squad, but Bruce is confident that the effects have now worn off. Paul McShane will be missing for up to four weeks with an ankle injury, while Robbie Brady and Sone Aluko remain on the sidelines.
Chelsea will again be without Branislav Ivanovic and Frank Lampard, but have no fresh injury concerns.
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick off from the KC Stadium at 7.45 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBCSN, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.