Monday 22 July 2019

Terry and Costa facing chop as Jose wields axe

Diego Costa, pictured here going through his paces at training yesterday, faces the axe for tonight’s match
Diego Costa, pictured here going through his paces at training yesterday, faces the axe for tonight’s match

Matt Law

Jose Mourinho will ring the changes tonight in an attempt to get his out-of-sorts Chelsea team firing, with John Terry, Diego Costa, Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Matic all likely to be dropped.

Teenage midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek is expected to be handed his first Champions League start against Maccabi Tel Aviv in place of Matic, with Loic Remy replacing Costa and Baba Rahman taking over from Ivanovic for his Chelsea debut.

Gary Cahill, left out of the defeat at Everton, is expected to replace Terry as Kurt Zouma's central defensive partner, while Oscar is fit to take over the No 10 role, allowing Mourinho to push Cesc Fabregas back, next to Loftus-Cheek.

Mourinho has insisted his changes for the Maccabi match are not a signal that he is blaming certain players for the terrible run of form that has seen his side pick up just four points from their first five Premier League games.

But Terry and Ivanovic, in particular, could face a battle to win back their starting place for Saturday's Premier League fixture with Arsenal if Chelsea finally get their season off the ground at Stamford Bridge.

Right-back Ivanovic has been particularly poor in Chelsea's awful start and his exclusion will mean Rahman, a £21m signing, will come in at left-back, with Cesar Azpilicueta taking over on the right.

Striker Radamel Falcao has been ruled out with an injury, while Pedro has a muscular problem, which will give a chance to Willian.

"I will make a couple of changes because I have to try a different dynamic, I have to try a couple of different faces and to give chances to people who have not been playing but have been working hard," said Mourinho.

"I know what you will say. If I leave out Azpilicueta it's because I have a problem with him. Same with Terry, same with Fabregas. I know the consequences."

Asked if he could explain why his star players have struggled so badly, Mourinho said: "I have different opinions, from me, players, assistants.

It's not an absolute truth. I can't say it's because of this or that. I'm here working every day, working on many different items.

"Speaking to players? Of course. Analysing matches? Of course. There is one point that is fundamental in football and that is the confidence levels. Especially with people who are used to winning all the time.

"When you don't, it's a strange feeling. Some people have more experience of that. Some deal with that negative moment better than others."

Mourinho reiterated that there were no splits within the club and rejected any suggestion he and his players needed to start ranting and raving to provoke a change in form, as has happened with past Chelsea squads.

He said: "You don't need to scream to communicate. You don't need to fight to communicate.

"Communication is very important and I try to improve my teams at that level. After that, fights or no fights, it's not important.

If it happens sometimes between people who like each other very much, it's not a drama. But we didn't arrive at that situation."

Mourinho admitted that his team's Premier League start - four points from five games, the worst of his managerial career - "really is so bad".

But when asked whether this underlined a long-standing problem in his career, whether he was having the same third-season crisis he has had before at Chelsea and at Real Madrid, Mourinho snapped, giving a brief and rather partial history lesson before decrying the "stupid question".

Mourinho then invoked the Chelsea fans' chant about being "champions of England", insisting that no one could "steal" that status from them. (© Daily Telegraph, London).

Chelsea v Maccabi Tel Aviv

Live, Setanta Ire/BT Sport, 7.45

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