Saturday 24 March 2018

Mourinho insists Cole must fight for his place ahead of heavy fixture schedule

Chelsea defender Ashley Cole (left) in action during training RICHARD HEATHCOTE
Chelsea defender Ashley Cole (left) in action during training RICHARD HEATHCOTE

Gerry Cox

Jose Mourinho has told Ashley Cole he is no longer first-choice left-back at Chelsea and faces competition for the position from Cesar Azpilicueta on a match-by-match basis.

Cole, who won his 100th England cap earlier this year, had been first choice for club and country for a decade but was dropped in favour of the young Spaniard after Chelsea's 2-0 defeat at Newcastle last month.

He was recalled for Wednesday's Champions League victory over Steaua Bucharest, but will return to the substitutes' bench today against Crystal Palace when Chelsea will hope to close the gap on leaders Arsenal should they fail to pick up maximum points in the lunchtime kick-off against Manchester City.

"I need the team to change, I need fresh people," said Mourinho.

"Azpilicueta will play (against Palace), so Ashley Cole can be fresh to play against Sunderland on Tuesday. "I don't think he (Cole) is happy. I haven't asked, but I don't think he is.

"But he's not a No 2. I have two No 1s, or two No 2s if you want. I trust both and I will choose the one I think is better for the occasion. It's good to have options."

Chelsea have seven games in the next three weeks and Mourinho is being careful not to push his players too hard.

"It's important to try not to kill some players by playing them every minute of every game, even if they're very important for the team.

"It's important sometimes to give them a breather and try to keep them in good condition. I don't risk players."

Cole is one of the senior players, including John Terry and Frank Lampard, not tied to long-term contracts, but Mourinho said the club will not rush into negotiations.

"The situation doesn't worry me. It's trust, a stable situation. At the end of the season, or before, the club will sit down and put offers on the table."

Mourinho has also said he will keep faith with David Luiz despite persistent rumours of a January move away from Chelsea for the maverick Brazil defender.

The Chelsea manager said the out-of-favour Luiz will partner Terry today, allowing Gary Cahill to rest a quadriceps problem.

"Everything is clear. He's our player and we are happy he's back in a moment when we need him and John in defence," Mourinho said.

"The market is open in January but I don't think we will be buying or selling... There has been no contact from other clubs or his people."

Luiz, a gifted but occasionally rash defender, returned from international duty last month with a bruised knee, but his appearances had been patchy before that under Mourinho. He has been linked with a transfer to Barcelona or Bayern Munich.

Mourinho also knows his own future depends on winning trophies, with Roman Abramovich demanding success. When asked whether it would be acceptable if Chelsea were to finish without a trophy, Mourinho said: "It depends on the meaning of acceptable. I think it's possible to happen. We're in a transitional period.

"If you mean my personal philosophy of life, the nature of the club, the nature we want everybody here to have, then it's not acceptable. We want to think that it is not acceptable, we want to think we have to work hard for that not to happen."

And he pointed to there being no barren years in his record of success since he won the Champions League with Porto 10 years ago. "The worst was last season when (Real Madrid) won only the Spanish Super Cup and were runners-up in the league." (© Daily Telegraph, London)



Irish Independent

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