Tuesday 23 January 2018

Speak in Spanish? No way Jose as petulant Mourinho refuses to discuss meltdown

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho

Sam Wallace

Jose Mourinho returned to Madrid yesterday ahead of Chelsea's Champions League semi-final first leg against Atletico tonight in the midst of an extraordinary sulk and claiming that his side could still keep their composure after Saturday's meltdown in defeat to Sunderland.

Over the course of an extremely stubborn press conference performance at the Vicente Calderon stadium, the former Real Madrid manager said that his players "always behave in relation to the situation", although he refused to discuss any of the details of a dreadful weekend for his side.

He would not talk about the dismissal of his assistant Rui Faria from the touchline, the elbow by Ramires on Sebastian Larsson that went unpunished or any expansion on his comments on Saturday about referee Mike Dean and his boss Mike Riley, head of the referees' organisation.

Mourinho even refused to acquiesce to requests from local reporters that he respond to questions in Spanish, instead answering in English each time.

Mourinho is without Samuel Eto'o, his first-choice striker, who has not travelled to Spain having suffered what the club said was a "small knee irritation".

Fernando Torres is back at his boyhood club and is a candidate to start the game, although Mourinho could choose to play André Schürrle as his striker, as he did in the first leg against Paris Saint Germain in the previous round.

David Luiz, who was Chelsea's designated player at the press conference, has been earmarked to start the game at right-back in place of the suspended Branislav Ivanovic, with Cesar Azpilicueta at left-back. It represents yet another rejection for Ashley Cole, whose time at the club is surely coming to an end.

The Chelsea manager would not discuss the Uefa ruling that permits the on-loan Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to play against his parent club over the two legs. Doing little to conceal his feelings about the decision, he said: "I think that (with) Uefa decisions it's better not to comment, you just accept. If you don't accept, don't make any comments. Uefa decide and I think managers don't comment."

Atletico manager Diego Simeone said there was no issue for Courtois facing the club that signed him from Genk three years ago.

Simeone said: "He is full of enthusiasm and knows this is a very important moment for the career of any footballer, but also for our club. There is a third-party situation and he will try to give the best for everyone, the fans, the directors and his team-mates."

Asked whether he felt that the 21-year-old, in his second season on loan at Atletico, had been the subject of psychological pressure from Chelsea, Simeone was adamant that if that was the case it had no effect. "It's not an issue that worries us. We have no worry about this situation. No comment."

Atletico midfielder Raul Garcia was the most outspoken about the prospect of facing the Chelsea manager. He said: "Mourinho doesn't scare us, obviously. It's only a game of football."

In contrast, Torres was full of compliments for Atletico's boss, a man the Spanish striker once hailed as a hero as he jumped to the terrace chant of "Olé, olé, olé, Cholo Simeone" when the Argentine was captain of the 1995-96 double- winning team at Atletico Madrid. He later became a team-mate in Simeone's second spell at the club.

"This (leading La Liga and being in the Champions League last four) is a triumph of his values of hard work and sacrifice," Torres said.

"He has been able to unite everyone at the football club. Without him this winning team would never have happened."

When Simeone turned up in December 2011, Atletico were closer to the bottom than the top of La Liga. His unique management style has made them title favourites with four games left.

"I don't know how all this will end but there are a lot of supporters from other smaller clubs watching us thinking, 'We want to be doing what they are doing'. We are fighting against two monsters with huge squads, great players and top managers," he says of the assault on Real Madrid and Barcelona. (©Independent News Service)

ATLETICO MADRID V CHELSEA,

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