Mourinho in no mood to hang around as Torres ban looms
Manager tired of being asked about omitted players ahead of Champions League clash with Steaua Bucharest
Chelsea’s manager Jose Mourinho during a press conference in Bucharest on Monday. Photograph: Bogdan Cristel/Reuters
Perhaps Jose Mourinho’s mood had genuinely been darkened only by the incessant deluge and choking traffic that greeted Chelsea’s players in the Romanian capital. More plausible, though, was the looming prospect of losing Fernando Torres to a lengthy domestic suspension and an acceptance Steaua Bucharest, victors when the sides met at the National stadium in the Europa League in March, represent a distinctly awkward test.
The manager sat through seven questions and a little over a quarter of an hour of his media conference on the eve of this tie before a query over Kevin De Bruyne’s absence offered him an escape route, the Portuguese taking leave to stride out of the room and on to the sodden turf with more urgent matters occupying his mind. His team wallow uncomfortably, third and pointless, in Group E after the sloppy opening defeat by Basel. The recovery must begin in Bucharest.
Chelsea may discover only an hour before they submit their team sheet tonight whether Torres’s one-match ban is to swell to a four-game absence, with the Football Association considering its options before a 6pm deadline, though the Spaniard will surely start against Steaua regardless. Mourinho recognises this contest must re-establish his side’s credentials in the section and Torres, on his second-half showing at Tottenham, is his most potent attacker.
The management can at least hope memories of the 1-0 loss here six months ago serve as motivation. “That’s good for me,” said Mourinho, reflecting upon the first-leg defeat endured by Rafael Benitez’s team but overturned in the return at Stamford Bridge. “They lost, they know why they lost, they know it’s not easy. In terms of concentration and motivation, maybe we are one step ahead from last season. Maybe last season came as a bit more of a surprise.”
Of those who started in March, only Yossi Benayoun – who has since been released – and the injured Eden Hazard are missing this time round. The Belgian’s absence with an ankle injury sustained in a challenge with Kyle Walker on Saturday represents far more of a blow than that of his compatriot De Bruyne, who has been left at home to stew over his recent anaemic form. His agent has since indicated the player is intent upon regaining a place, in the same manner Juan Mata has already this term.
This will be no occasion for players who are off colour. Steaua have dropped only two points in seven unbeaten domestic league games and will hope the state of the pitch, relaid three weeks ago but drenched by the rainfall until the roof was hauled across the arena yesterday afternoon, acts as even more of a leveller.