Just days after his public lamenting of his available strikers, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has insisted that Fernando Torres still has a future at the club.
Attacking midfielder Andre Schurrle was selected ahead of Torres against Paris Saint-Germain in midweek, with Mourinho saying after the 3-1 defeat that he did so because he is “not happy with my strikers' performances.”
But ahead of Chelsea hosting Stoke City in the Premier League on Saturday, Mourinho took a more encouraging approach to the club’s misfiring record signing.
“Yes, he has a future,” Mourinho said. “If he wants to improve, obviously. I think everybody wants to improve and obviously Chelsea wants to improve. He is under contract, he's a good professional. He works hard for the team, he brings positive things to the team.
“Obviously, we want him to score more goals. Obviously, he wants to score more goals. It's not just me that wants. During his time at the club he's had moments, some of them important moments, but he hasn't had a lot of stability in his performances.”
Chelsea’s form has dipped just at the crucial part of the season. Three defeats in their last five matches has not only put their chances of making the last four of the Champions League in serious jeopardy but has left them two points off Liverpool at the top of the Premier League and with Manchester City two points further back but having two games in hand.
And they are unlikely to have an easy time on Saturday. Before their recent poor run started with a loss to Aston Villa last month, Chelsea’ last Premier League defeat came against Stoke in December. As against PSG in midweek, it was a match that featured the sort of sloppy defending uncharacteristic of Mourinho’s teams.
“We lost there because we made a couple of mistakes, it's one of the few matches where we have made defensive mistakes this season,” he explained, according to Chelsea’s official website. “We could have been winning at half-time easily and we arrived at half-time drawing.
“They are a difficult opponent. They are fresh, they play one match a week, they have no pressure and they will fight to finish the season in a beautiful position, they want to finish seventh, not 11th.”
In contrast to Chelsea, Stoke have been in fine form in recent weeks, winning their last three matches to eradicate any fears of relegation and even move into the top half of the Premier League. And returning to his former club, manager Mark Hughes wants his players to garner inspiration to make it four wins in a row by the prospect of ending Mourinho’s 76-match unbeaten streak in league matches at Stamford Bridge.
“Confidence is always important at places like Chelsea, and we have to make sure we show that and show no apprehension, and then see where it takes us,” he said, reports Stoke City’s official website.
“This weekend provides a massive challenge for us, but one that we are looking forward to. It is an incredible record that they have at Stamford Bridge but this is an opportunity for our lads to go down there and make a bit of history.”
Hughes will be unable to call upon the man who scored against Chelsea in the reverse fixture, Oussama Assaidi, who continues to miss out due to a knee injury. There are no fresh injuries, though, and Jonathan Walters is available again after suspension.
Chelsea will again be without Samuel Eto’o, while Marco van Ginkel is continuing his recovery with the Under-21 side. John Mikel Obi has also gone down with an injury. Ashley Cole, though, is back in contention following a knee problem.
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick off at 12.30 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBC, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.