José Mourinho has insisted that he has no concerns about his Chelsea squad after they lost their first match of the season at the weekend and has no need to see a reaction when Sporting Lisbon visit Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. Chelsea began the season by going 21 matches unbeaten in all competitions before losing 2-1 at Newcastle United on Saturday. Yet with Chelsea still top of the Premier League, albeit with their lead cut to just three points, and with first place in their Champions League group and a place in the last 16 already secured, Mourinho sees no reason to panic. He is, though, eager to get back to winning ways against their Portuguese visitors.
“From the mental point of view the defeat to Newcastle doesn’t have an effect on us because I was always saying the defeat would arrive and wouldn’t arrive by complacency, which was the case,” he said in his pre-match press conference.
“I’m more than happy with the players, I’m more than happy with our situation. I accept the defeat as a normal situation in a championship like the Premier League. We are fine. We don’t need a reaction, we don’t need to change things, we don’t need to change our philosophy, we don’t need to change our players.
“We couldn’t be in a better situation. We are top of the Premier League, top of our Champions League group and in the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup, so we have nothing to change or be worried with. But when you lose a game the next game you want to win. The next game is tomorrow and we want a good result.”
Despite looking for a win, Mourinho did reveal that he would use the game, which is a dead rubber for Chelsea but not for Sporting, which needs a point to secure qualification for the last 16, to give some players a rest.
“[John] Terry, Willian and [Eden] Hazard are on holidays,” Mourinho said. “I would like to give the whole squad the time off but we are always playing and we have good solutions for those positions, so they are off and they will not play.”
Despite his hamstring problems this season, Diego Costa will start, having been given an enforced rest when suspended for a 3-0 victory over Tottenham last week. The same approach is likely to be taken for Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas, with the former having been suspended against Newcastle and the latter being forced to sit out the match against Hull on Saturday.
Unlike their opponents, Sporting go into the final game of Group G still with everything on the line. Marco Silva’s side are eight points off the pace in the Portuguese Liga, but have fared better in Europe and sit two points ahead of third placed Schalke. If the German outfit, against whom Sporting’s 4-2 victory last month gives them a better head-to-head record, fail to beat Maribor in Slovenia then Sporting will progress regardless of their result at Stamford Bridge. Otherwise a point will be required.
Prediction: While Mourinho is after a bounce-back win, Chelsea, which plan to hand a debut to 18-year-old midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek, are unlikely to have optimum intensity. They have let wins slip at home to Schalke and away at Maribor already in this group and there could be another draw on Wednesday, with Sporting getting the result they need.
Chelsea 1-1 Sporting Lisbon
Kickoff time: 2.45 p.m. EST