Jose Mourinho is pleased with the way his Chelsea team has responded from some early problems following his return the club and believes that more is yet to come. Chelsea lost consecutive matches to Everton and Basel in the middle of last month, but they rebounded with three wins and a draw from their next four encounters, including an impressive 4-0 victory away at Steaua Bucharest in midweek. And, ahead of a trip to face Norwich on Sunday, Mourinho sounded confident that his players were on the right track.
“We have a lot to improve, a lot to work on. We will have ups and downs, I'm ready for that,” he said in Friday’s pre-match press conference, according to Chelsea’s official website. “After the defeat against Basel we won against Fulham, we did a fantastic second half against Tottenham, and under pressure we solved the situation in Bucharest. It looks to me like the players had a good reaction.
“Today I was in the training session and I was feeling the way that the players were being successful in the tasks and exercises we gave them. It was showing that they breathe in a different way.”
Eden Hazard remains a fitness doubt with an ankle injury. While Fernando Torres escaped a further FA ban for his clash with Jan Vertonghen in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Tottenham, the Spanish striker picked up an injury in Romania that rules him out until after the coming international break. That is likely to mean a return to the starting lineup for Samuel Eto’o at Carrow Road. And Mourinho believes the summer signing from Anzhi Makhachkala needs to not only get back up to speed with a higher level of competition but to modify his game from his younger years.
“He's come back to the top level of European football and he needs a little bit of time to find that sharpness,” Mourinho said. “He's playing a lot and he's getting his form. He understands where he is, for an experienced player like him the Premier League is a different picture.
“Players transform themselves over the years; they become stronger in some aspects and they lose some other qualities in other aspects. With me at Inter he was playing many times wide and coming inside. I don't think he can play the same way. He must play more as a pure number nine. Players are going to adapt in relation to their age, their position and their condition.”
Norwich come into the fixture on the back of a much-needed victory away to stoke City last week. Pressure had started to mount on manager Chris Hughton after a summer of relatively considerable investment yielded just one win from the club’s first six Premier League outings.
Hughton confirmed that both Javier Garrido and Nathan Redmond, who missed out against Stoke, will be available for selection on Saturday. With Elliott Bennett the one long-term absentee, the only fitness doubt is central defender Sebastien Bassong, who faces a late fitness test on a hamstring injury.
D: Martin, Turner, R. Bennett, Garrido
M: Snodgrass, Howson, Tettey, Fer, Redmond
F: Van Wolfswinkel
D: Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole
M: Ramires, Lampard
Mata, Oscar, Schurrle
Prediction: Helped in large part by the introduction of Juan Mata, Chelsea improved dramatically in the second half against Tottenham and, with the Spaniard again in the side, they also looked good against Steaua Bucharest. Andre Schurrle was also excellent in Romania, meaning that the potential continued absence of Hazard will not be all that much of a concern against Norwich.
Hughton spent decent money on three strikers over the summer, yet Norwich are the joint lowest scorers in the Premier League to date. Against Chelsea just one front man is likely to be selected, with the most expensive signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel potentially getting the nod for better all-round game compared with Gary Hooper. Norwich will look to keep things tight and have the ability to do so for a decent stretch of time, but Chelsea should eventually pry their way through and once they do another goal could follow.
Norwich 0-2 Chelsea
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick-off at 8.30 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the NBC Sports Network, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.