Chelsea have tended to rise to the occasion this season against the bigger sides and did so again against Liverpool in a performance Terry believes was the Blues’ best so far this term. A ninth win from 10 home matches – West Brom the only blip, when Hazard converted a late penalty to earn a draw – extended Mourinho’s unbeaten Premier League run at home to 70 games. “I thought we were brilliant, for me the best we’ve played all season in the first half, especially after going a goal down,” Terry said. “I thought we responded really well. First half the pressure, the tempo, from everyone was excellent. And the fight and the desire to win. “Away to Arsenal with five or 10 minutes to go you want a point; at home you always push and you want to win. That’s why we’ve got such a good record (at home).” Terry had a key role to play and did it well alongside Gary Cahill in central defence, starving Liverpool’s prolific goalscorer Luis Suarez of chances. It was Terry’s 600th appearance for Chelsea after transcending eras of big spending prior to Roman Abramovich’s 2003 takeover and since. He added: “I’m really honoured to have played so many games for such a top team. “When I came through here we were buying players and it was difficult to come through. I had to work hard to get where I am today. “To still be fighting and playing and being involved is really special to me.” Asked if he will now target Ron Harris’ club record of 795 appearances, the 33-year-old said: “No chance.” Chelsea’s win was based on a collective endeavour and a defensive solidity helped by the deployment of David Luiz in midfield. Mourinho had vowed not to select the Brazil defender in the position after his predecessor Rafael Benitez often did last term, but decided needs must against Liverpool. Mourinho told Chelsea TV: “He can do it and he can do it very, very well. I saw last season and I like very, very much. “The point for me is that the Chelsea we want to build is a Chelsea with a different profile. “Without Ramires I needed intensity there. I needed his energy; (Frank) Lampard is not especially a fast player in terms of defensive transition. “I needed David to do that. He had a fantastic game, not just on that, but also on playing football. He was magnificent.” Luiz is suspended for the trip to Southampton after picking up a fifth booking of the season against Liverpool, but Ramires is available again. Frank Lampard (undisclosed) and Branislav Ivanovic (knee) are out after suffering injuries against Liverpool, the latter meaning Cesar Azpilicueta is likely to switch to right-back with Ashley Cole recalled at left-back. “The last couple of years we’ve lost our identity a little bit,” Terry told Chelsea TV. “There’s some good teams in the league and when you go 3-2 up (for example) it’s important you get men behind the ball and dig in deep and not give them opportunities to really feed on. I think we’re doing that really well at the moment. “At times when we’re looking really solid, getting the wide men in and then when we do break it’s important for them to then go again and show their fresh legs going forward.” One of those wide men is Eden Hazard, who netted his eighth Premier League goal of the season to cancel out Martin Skrtel’s opener, before Samuel Eto’o poked in the winner. Terry was full of praise for Hazard, who has become “a complete player” since adopting the new-found defensive work ethic demanded by Mourinho. “It’s important you keep it tight at the back and you look for those type of players to create something or do something out of nothing,” Terry added. “He’s been doing that all season (and) scoring. The last four or five games he’s been really tracking back and really dug in. “He’s really dug in and added that to his game and made him the complete player.” Chelsea beat Liverpool 2-1 on Sunday to move two points behind Arsenal at the halfway stage in a campaign which has seen Mourinho’s men beat Manchester City and Liverpool and draw at Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal. In the last two seasons Chelsea have struggled to remain in contention – in 2012 they finished 25 points behind winners City and in 2013 they were 14 points behind champions United, each time after being well adrift by Christmas – but Terry reckons the Blues now have the character to secure narrow wins, such as Sunday’s. Captain John Terry believes Chelsea have rediscovered their identity under Jose Mourinho to make a Barclays Premier League title tilt. Press Association
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho kept his counsel ahead of Saturday’s Barclays Premier League clash with Everton after making a habit of throwing verbal barbs in the direction of his rivals in recent weeks. Asked about City and Arsenal’s European travails, both losing 2-0 in their Champions League last-16 first-leg clashes, Mourinho would only consider his side’s tie with Galatasaray. “My Champions League starts Wednesday,” he said. Asked about the potential impact on the Premier League title race of their rivals’ defeat, the Portuguese added: “I play Wednesday and I concentrate on that.” On the title race, Mourinho, who maintains Chelsea’s approach is only game-by-game, said: “The table is there. You can look at the table and see how the table is. “We are top of the league but we can be second if Man City wins the match they have in hand. “If we win tomorrow we keep the same position.” Following his description of Arsene Wenger as “a specialist in failure” last week and the Frenchman’s riposte that he was “embarrassed for him (Mourinho)”, the Portuguese declined the opportunity to respond in order to avoid a continuation of the tit-for-tat exchange. Wayne Rooney was a summer transfer target for Mourinho, but now appears poised to commit his future to Manchester United with a contract reportedly worth B#300,000 a week. “I don’t react,” Mourinho added. Rooney is now managed by David Moyes, who has been succeeded at Everton by Roberto Martinez. The sixth-placed Toffees are three points better off than Moyes’ United, last season’s champions, with a game in-hand. Asked his thoughts on Martinez’s tenure at Everton, Mourinho said: “I don’t comment.” Everton’s position in the table is in part due to the performances of on-loan Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku, who has netted nine Premier League goals but has recently been out with an ankle problem. Mourinho declined to comment on the Belgium striker, whom he has not spoken to of late and is ineligible to face his parent club. “I don’t speak about Romelu until the end of the season,” the Chelsea boss said. “Until the end of the season he is an Everton player.” One of Chelsea’s three Premier League losses this season was at Goodison Park in September, but Mourinho does not expect that to have an impact. “We think we can beat them because we believe in ourselves,” he said. “We are not influenced negatively or positively about what happened in the past.” Roberto Martinez expects the trip to Stamford Bridge to provide a barometer for Everton’s top-four hopes. Martinez views the Toffees as being in a four-way battle with Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United for fourth place and a spot in next year’s Champions League. Everton have a lot of catching up to do given they are eight points behind their city rivals and five adrift of Tottenham, although they do have a game in hand on both. Defeat by Spurs in their last Premier League match was particularly costly, with Martinez’s side dominating most of the match but losing out to an Emmanuel Adebayor goal. The Spaniard wants Everton to learn from that against Chelsea, who top the table and have dropped just four points at home all season. Martinez said: “The game we have at the weekend is going to tell us a lot. “It’s important that as a team we keep working, we keep developing and keep getting stronger, but only when you get in a match against teams that are competing in the Champions League do you get a clear idea how far away you are. “Stamford Bridge is one of the hardest places to go and get three points, and I think it’s going to be a terrific measurement for ourselves after the disappointment that we had at White Hart Lane. “It’s something we need to correct, to use that experience that when you are the better side, you need to win the football game. “Chelsea have got terrific home form with this manager, and not just this season. It’s an incredible challenge but probably internally we need that.” Press Association Mourinho was less than his usual effusive self when questioned prior to Saturday’s match against the Toffees, answering at length only when directly asked about Chelsea, who have John Terry available again but are without David Luiz. Chelsea enter this weekend’s fixtures top of the Premier League by one point from Arsenal and two from Manchester City, who have a game in hand.
“We always want to win every time we play, but we need to ensure we pick up the three points to keep things going in the competition. “Everybody knows Montenegro are a good footballing nation who have caused trouble to everybody they have played. However we drew 0-0 out there and we created enough chances to perhaps have won the game. “I’m expecting a tough game, but we are looking for a good all-round performance and a good spirit. If we get that, we will have enough about us to win this game.” Ireland currently lie in third place in Group 6, level on eight points with the Montenegrins, but behind on goal difference with leaders Germany six points clear. However, Wednesday’s opponents have played one game fewer, and the result of the encounter in Dublin could have a major bearing on how the race for second spot pans out. The 10 group winners and four best runners-up will progress to the play-offs, from which the seven winners will join the hosts in the finals. Noel King has challenged his Ireland Under-21s team to keep their dreams of European Championship qualification alive to the death. Ireland entertain Montenegro at Tallaght Stadium on Wednesday afternoon knowing anything but victory would deal a major blow to their hopes of making it to the finals in the Czech Republic in June next year. King said: “We want to keep the journey going to the end of the campaign. Press Association
Having twice gone behind at second-bottom Cardiff on the way to their 6-3 victory at the weekend, Liverpool’s next three opponents may sense they have a chance to upset the Reds’ run in. But Rodgers is confident his players are in great mental shape and have the character to withstand the pressures in the final eight games. “Every team that comes through and wins (the title) have to be in that situation at some stage,” he said. “If you go back 10 years or so Chelsea hadn’t won the league for 50 years when they eventually did win. “People may have questioned whether they had the mental strength to win it but when you do win it no-one then questions it. “I only need to look at the squad and we certainly have the strength of character and we have shown that over a period of time. “In my time here there has been various items thrown at the team. “When I first came in we didn’t score enough goals and that has now been flipped to we concede too many goals. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists his high-flying side have the mental fortitude to stay in the title race as they do not underestimate any opponent. Press Association While much is being made of the significance of next month’s visits of Chelsea and Manchester City, their two main rivals, there are games to be won before that. Sunderland visit on Wednesday, followed by games against Tottenham and West Ham before the first of their two mouthwatering home clashes, when City come to Anfield. “‘Do we have the character?’ and then we go on a run and we’re okay. “‘Is the squad big enough?. Are they fit enough?’ It continues but we just concentrate on our work. “We are up in that top area where we want to be but we don’t underestimate any opponent with eight games to go. “We are just continuing with the focus on a one-game strategy as that’s what keeps it simple.” Rodgers accepts his team will never be perfect but it is the way they adapt to those imperfections and learn from their mistakes that he is more interested in. And all the while he knows they are capable of outscoring any team in the division, which is where his meticulous planning over the last 18 months is coming to fruition. “The objective coming in was to make us a more attacking, potent force knowing the other stuff will improve as we go along and the players have responded magnificently to the ideas we are looking to implement,” added the Reds boss. “We just work to make ourselves a more potent force. We are not perfect. We have the capacity to keep clean sheets but it has got to be consistent. “What we have been able to work on is no matter what mistakes we make in the game we still have a positive attitude towards winning it. “It is not total freedom, it is very much structured in terms of how we work, but I feel people enjoy watching us.” Striker Luis Suarez, whose two strikes on Saturday equalled the club’s record for Premier League goals in a season set by Robbie Fowler in 1997, has his sights set on the all-time landmark (34) shared by Andy Cole in 1993-94 and Alan Shearer in 1994-95. However, they scored theirs in 40 and 42 games while Suarez has 28 in 25 and has just eight more games to surpass them, having missed five league matches at the start of the season through suspension. The rate at which Suarez is scoring this season is startling as he is averaging 1.12 goals a game – far in excess of the 0.85 and 0.81 strike-rates of Cole and Shearer – and if he were to continue on that trajectory he would comfortably set a new high. “Suarez is remarkable. His hunger and desire with his other qualities make him hard to handle,” admitted Rodgers.
New Ireland international Kieran Marmion wants to nail down a permanent place in the squad having made his debut against Argentina on Saturday. Press Association Marmion, who was an unused replacement in last year’s summer tour to Canada and the United States, said it was a dream come true to make his international bow. “It’s great to get the opportunity and all the hard work to pay off,” he said. “I was delighted to get out on the pitch. “Obviously after last year not getting on, I was just happy to get out there to get a run-out.” He started 26 of Connacht’s competitive games this season and came off the bench in the other two – it was the second straight season in which he has played in every league game. The target now for the 22-year-old is to maintain that consistency and remain part of Joe Schmidt’s plans for the Rugby World Cup. “Obviously, that’s what we all want so to do that, we have got to go back and work hard with our regions and to try and push on from where we are now,” he added. “I’m just going to keep working as hard as I can and keep putting the training in and see where it goes from there.” Marmion immediately noticed the increase in intensity at international level and is now hoping Ireland can wrap up the series against the Pumas in Tucuman on Saturday. He said: “It was obviously a step up, even in training and stuff, it’s all a step up so it’s a great experience and something to take on board for when we go back and play with our regions. “We are going to try and get the win again on Saturday It’s the first time that an Irish team have won in Argentina so to take the series would be even better.”
Press Association Diouf ran from deep inside his own half to nutmeg Joe Hart and hand the Potters 1-0 success over the Barclays Premier League champions at the Etihad Stadium. It was a brilliant first goal in Stoke colours for the former Manchester United forward, who was signed on a free transfer from Hannover in the summer. “I am going to say they even themselves out. We scored a goal so we would have won anyway.” The victory was Stoke’s first of the season and Hughes expects it to lift their campaign. He said: “It was important. Either way, I always sensed this was a game that was going to kickstart our season.” Hughes, a former City boss, said the only personal satisfaction he took was in the importance of the victory for his side, as he had “no axe to grind” with the Eastlands club. He added: “I was here as the manager and enjoyed that time. It didn’t last as long as I thought it could have done, but there you go. “You just move on to the next challenge. I am at a good club now.” City manager Manuel Pellegrini felt his side, who had started their title defence with comfortable wins over Newcastle and Liverpool, were off-colour. The Chilean said: “I think we were a very patient team, we tried to create space but Stoke defended very well, and we couldn’t create space. “I think (in terms of) the attitude of the players, we did all we could do but it was a bad day for the creative players. “It was too easy (for them) the way they scored the goal in a counter-attack, from a corner in their own box and he ran 70 metres to score. “In these games it is very important to be patient but it is more important not to concede. They defended always with 10 strong players behind the ball.” Pellegrini was frustrated about the late penalty incident involving Toure but did not want to make a big issue of it. He said: “What I think doesn’t matter. I don’t talk about the referee. All of you know it was a clear penalty. It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to analyse the game.” Pellegrini would not be drawn on reports linking City with a loan move for Monaco star striker Radamel Falcao before Monday’s transfer deadline. He said: “I am not talking about rumours. We have now 48 hours, we will see what happens. “We have important restrictions about the amount of money we can spend and the number of players we can use, so it is not easy for us to bring important players.” Stoke were hopeful a knee injury suffered by Odemwingie was not serious while City midfielder Fernando was to have a groin problem assessed. Stoke boss Mark Hughes hailed Mame Biram Diouf’s stunning winner after his side claimed a shock victory at Manchester City. Hughes said: “We are really pleased for Mame. He is a striker and when you come to a new club you want to make an impression as quickly as possible and that means scoring goals. “We could see he was going to give us something we didn’t have last year, which was pace and power on the break. “It was an outstanding goal and I hadn’t realised until I saw it again how deep he picked the ball up. “He kept on going and you always sensed he was going to go all the way and get a shot off. Thankfully there was enough power on it to beat Joe. It was fantastic goal to win any game.” Diouf might also have had a penalty in the first half when he appeared to be tripped by Aleksandar Kolarov and he went close to a second when he almost connected with a Peter Odemwingie cross. Yaya Toure went closest for City when he hit the bar and the Ivorian also appealed for a penalty late on after a challenge by Erik Pieters, but he was instead booked for diving. Hughes said: “Apparently people were saying it was a good call for a penalty. “But I saw the one we should have had in the first half, which I felt was a good call.
A last-minute try from Ireland wing Andrew Trimble saw Ulster snatch a 32-32 draw against Scarlets in a dramatic and hugely entertaining Guinness Pro12 clash at Parc y Scarlets. A breathless opening saw three tries scored inside the first 14 minutes. The opener came after just two minutes and was scored by wing Harry Robinson – one of three new signings making their Scarlets debut. A clever chip and chase by Wales centre Scott Williams set up the attack, but after he spilled the ball, Ulster attempted to counter from deep. The Irish province were then turned over and with men over, slick Scarlets handling put the former Blues flyer over in the corner and fly-half Rhys Priestland converted. Ulster’s response was impressive. From an attacking line-out, the white forwards charged at the home line and the Scarlets defence was eventually stretched enough for South African debutant Franco van der Merwe to drive over for a score converted by fly-half Ian Humphreys. Priestland landed a penalty straight from the restart, but back came Ulster with a second try inside four minutes – from Van der Merwe’s second-row partner Dan Tuohy. It was a score created by a sublime break from centre Stuart Olding, who proved a handful all afternoon. But in keeping with an electric first half, that only prompted the Scarlets into action. With Scotland flanker John Barclay to the fore, the home side piled on the pressure and eventually Ulster’s defence succumbed with number eight Rory Pitman – a summer arrival from London Wasps – touching down out wide. Press Association Priestland was again on target with the extras before Ulster were denied their third try. South African full-back Louis Ludik – another on debut – thought he had crossed, but the Scarlets had felt there had been obstruction in the build-up, a view referee Peter Fitzgibbon eventually agreed with after a lengthy TMO review on the big screen. Humphreys reduced the deficit to 17-15 with a long-range penalty, but it was the Scarlets who had the final word of a superb half of rugby. With Ulster on the attack, lock Jake Ball came up with the ball, fed scrum-half Gareth Davies and last year’s top try-scorer raced 60 metres to the line with Priestland’s conversion making it 24-15 at the break. A rash challenge from Tuohy on Scott Williams five minutes after the restart saw Priestland add three more points to the scoreboard with the Ireland lock sin-binned for the offence. However, Scarlets also found themselves a man short straight from the restart when full-back Liam Williams was shown yellow for a deliberate knock down as Ulster pressed and Humphreys reduced the deficit to 27-18. A great counter from replacement Gareth Owen saw Davies claim his second on 62 minutes, but to their credit Ulster refused to throw in the towel. Ludik crossed wide out on 68 minutes and Humphreys converted to narrow the gap to just seven points. Then, after Liam Williams was dismissed a minute from time , Trimble was put away and Humphreys made no mistake with the conversion to rescue a share of the points for Ulster. The Scarlets had led 32-18 with 17 minutes left on the clock, but spearheaded by second-half replacements Trimble and powerhouse number eight Nick Williams, the Ulstermen came surging back to share the spoils. It was a fantastic advert for the Pro12 with both sides willing to give the ball air, running in four tries each to finish with three points apiece for their efforts.
The fact that the likes of Janmaat, Cabella and Riviere in particular have struggled to get to grips with the Premier League – De Jong’s loss to a long-term thigh injury has also proved costly – has not gone unnoticed in the Boardroom, and the blame for that is not being laid at the manager’s feet. In the circumstances, much of the pressure on the former Reading, West Ham, Charlton and Southampton boss is coming largely from disaffected fans, with many of those who made the trip to the Britannia Stadium making their feelings known both during the game and on the final whistle. However, Ashley, who told a journalist – he later insisted in jest – last week that Pardew would be sacked if the team lost at Stoke, remains in his corner, if only just and will give him more time to turn things around. Newcastle defender Mike Williamson insists the squad remain “100 per cent” behind under-fire boss Alan Pardew despite lurching to another Barclays Premier League defeat on Monday night. Pardew’s position looked extremely precarious in the wake of the 1-0 defeat to Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium, but owner Mike Ashley has once again indicated the 53-year-old is under no immediate danger of the sack. And while many Newcastle fans may be dismayed by Ashley’s refusal to act to replace Pardew, Williamson maintains he continues to have the backing of the dressing room. Press Association Williamson said: “We’re all frustrated but he’s been calm and he’s showed composure and that’s what we need. “He’s obviously come in for a lot of criticism but he’s got a thick skin and he knows we can only get ourselves out of this position by going back to the drawing board and working hard. “It shows on the pitch that we are 100 per cent behind him and we’re doing everything we can.” Pardew is set to lead the Magpies to their next Premier League game at Swansea on Saturday – and is not even expected to endure “crisis” talks with Ashley. That does not amount to an unlimited vote of confidence from the club’s billionaire owner, but an acknowledgement that not all the problems the team is experiencing on the pitch are down to the manager. Pardew’s squad underwent significant change during the summer, with nine new faces – Karl Darlow and Jamaal Lascelles were immediately loaned back to Nottingham Forest – arriving at St James’ Park. As well as the fact that the proven striker and commanding central defender they wanted remained tantalisingly out of their grasp, the Magpies’ concentration on the continental market once again saw them swoop for Daryl Janmaat, Siem de Jong, Remy Cabella, Emmanuel Riviere and Ayoze Perez, as well as Argentinian striker Facundo Ferreyra, leaving former Sunderland midfielder Jack Colback as the only recruit with Premier League experience. Pardew, whose influence in transfer dealings is limited, had previously spoken about the need to attract men who already had a grounding in English football, but later admitted that home-grown players had come at a particularly high premium this summer.
“We have been playing under huge pressure, we have been working under huge pressure – you can’t get away from it in this city – and it’s difficult. “We really can self-harm sometimes with the pressure we put ourselves under, but on the other hand when we win, we have a euphoria like we had today, and I thought the stadium was terrific today. I can’t thank the fans enough.” Opposite number Nigel Pearson, who saw Marc Albrighton hit the bar with a first-half cross, was disappointed to come away empty-handed after a real tussle on Tyneside. He said: “If you are not creating or taking your chances, it’s important to keep a clean sheet and we have been done on the counter-attack from what was a very promising situation for ourselves. “It’s frustrating, there’s no doubt about that, but I know that we will get a positive response from the players.” Meanwhile, both managers insisted the delay as engineers worked to secure dressing panels around the 60m screen had not affected their players. Pearson said: “The players were all very relaxed about that. Both sets of players dealt with the situation very well, as did the club and the officials. “There was no friction at all. Sometimes these things happen and you have got to deal with them.” Pardew added: “I have to pay tribute to Nigel, he was very calm about it all. He was matter of fact, it was a problem and let’s just wait and sort it out. He didn’t make a big deal and I thank him for that. “We were so impatient for the game, it just made it a little bit more difficult, but in the end it didn’t affect what was a big day for us.” A rare goal from French midfielder Gabriel Obertan was enough to secure a 1-0 victory over Leicester at St James’ Park in a game which was delayed by an hour because of problems with a newly-erected big screen. However, it was all worth the wait for Pardew as his team collected three points for just the sixth time in 27 league games in 2014. Newcastle boss Alan Pardew will not allow his players to rest on their laurels after they finally ended their wait for a first Barclays Premier League win of the season at the eighth attempt. Press Association Asked if the win had come as a relief, Pardew said: “When you have been a manager as long as I have and experienced a team that’s not functioning, you have to work doubly-hard and try to protect yourself from the pressures that are coming. “I have had to take a lot of criticism and I have accepted that, you have to. But the most important thing is we can move on from this because this isn’t going to be the be all and end all for us, beating Leicester. “We need to beat some top teams and we need to improve as a team. It will help us this week in our work and instil some confidence in some players who I know can be better than they are showing.” The decisive moment arrived with 19 minutes remaining when Obertan picked up possession wide on the left and cut inside along the edge of the penalty area before thumping a low right-foot shot past keeper Kasper Schmeichel and into the bottom corner. It was his first goal for the club since October 2012, and his first in the league since his only other at Blackburn almost nine months earlier. However, Newcastle, for whom the in-from Papiss Cisse was guilty of an extraordinary miss early in the second half, had to fight for their win with keeper Tim Krul and central defender Steven Taylor both making vital interceptions at the death. For once, Pardew headed home looking forward to watching Match of the Day. He said with a smile: “I tend to watch even when it’s nasty and horrible. It’s important for me to keep up to date with what’s being said about your team and other teams. But certainly I will watch it with a smile tonight.
Chelsea are certain of topping the table for another week even if Louis van Gaal – Mourinho’s one-time mentor – masterminds a victory for Manchester United over the Blues at Old Trafford on Sunday. Mourinho and United endured rare trophyless seasons last term and, while silverware appears a great challenge for Van Gaal, for Chelsea it seems within reach after a scintillating start to the campaign. “Last time we won a lot,” said Mourinho, referring to his two Premier League titles, one FA Cup and two League Cups from June 2004 to September 2007. “It’s not good for a team that’s won nothing to be compared with a team that won everything. “(But) at the same time I have also to be honest and say that this team is showing great quality in its football and, if we manage to win also titles, it can be better, but let’s see.” It is quite a statement from a manager who identified numerous flaws in the first season of his return last term, despite guiding the Blues to within four points of champions Manchester City. Mourinho has apparently addressed many of those unsatisfactory elements, particularly with the addition of prolific striker Diego Costa – a fitness doubt for Old Trafford – and midfield playmaker Cesc Fabregas. The most pleasing thing for Mourinho is playing well and getting the rewards. He added: “If you get results and you are not happy with the quality of the game, it’s not perfect. If you play amazingly well, but don’t get results, it’s not perfect too. “It’s difficult to say that Chelsea are not playing good football. Press Association Jose Mourinho believes his Premier League leaders have the potential to be even better than the vintage Chelsea of his first spell, but warned his players they have won nothing yet. “It’s important for us as a group to have that feeling that we are getting results, but at the same time we are playing well.” Much was made of Mourinho’s Chelsea being physical and direct during his first spell at Stamford Bridge, but he insists he works with the players at his disposal. “We are trying to play a football adapted to the qualities of our players,” he added. “This is something people sometimes don’t understand. If you are a team that has players that are killers at counter attack, you have to play that style. “If you have players very strong with a low block (defensive line) and direct football, you have to play that style. “If you have people like Eden (Hazard) and Oscar and Fabregas, these kind of players, you need the ball. “You need to control the game by having the ball and by using their intelligence and creativity.” A player like Nemanja Matic has allowed Fabregas to flourish, but Mourinho believes the Serbia midfielder is more than an uncompromising presence. “They start together the eight Premier League matches and the three Champions League matches – 11 matches together,” Mourinho added. “There are teams and players that don’t do that during the whole season. People change a lot and players don’t have this situation of the chance to improve together. “They understand each other very, very, very well. People sometimes can look to a physical guy like Matic and think he’s a physical player. “He’s very technical. He plays fantastic football. He thinks very quickly, he executes very well. Together they are playing really well.” Mourinho also has leaders throughout his team, like during his first spell. He added: “I like all of them to communicate. I like all of them to have a voice. I think communication on the pitch is very, very important.” Didier Drogba’s return has, in part, been about facilitating the development of Chelsea’s young players. “Didier was always a fantastic example of a team player, of a club man, of a dressing room man,” Mourinho added. “At the age of 36, after so many years of experience, he has even better conditions to be a key man.” Mourinho learnt from, and by, experience when at Barcelona working as Van Gaal’s assistant. Sunday’s match will be the second competitive clash between the pair, the first coming in the 2010 Champions League final which Mourinho’s Inter Milan won against Van Gaal’s Bayern Munich. The Portuguese recalled “good memories” of the Catalan Cup win while at Barcelona, when Van Gaal gave him the run of the team. “I took the team, but he was in the stands,” Mourinho added. “I accept that as a gift for somebody that was giving everything and was working hard. “He was there to support. He was in the stands. He came down at half-time to the dressing room to listen to my team talk. “He didn’t want to interfere, because probably he thought that was right.”