Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is relishing the prospect of a Premier League Christmas, a period he said yesterday that only the brave could survive.
Mourinho, speaking ahead of this evening’s Champions League tie at Basel, also made light of Tottenham Hotspur’s 6-0 rout by Manchester City on Sunday afternoon. The Portuguese said it was better than losing six games by a single goal and showed why the Premier League was the envy of La Liga and the Bundesliga.
Chelsea face nine matches in December and Mourinho is hoping the Group E leaders can ease the pressure by wrapping up qualification for the Champions League round of 16 tonight.
A draw at Basel, who are third in the table and trail the Londoners by four points, would do the trick with one match to spare and make the December game at home to Steaua Bucharest less important.
“It’s a period where I think only the brave can survive because it’s hard,” Mourinho told reporters.
“At Christmas the accumulation of matches is so high. You must do it with a special group with a special mentality, enjoying the situation and forgetting you don’t have a Christmas like the Spanish players, the Italian players, the German players.
“It’s a period I like where I think the squad can play a role, not just the team,” added the manager, who is in his second spell with Chelsea.
“I enjoyed it when I was in England before and missed it in Spain and Italy. If we can finish the job tomorrow we could say instead of nine matches we have eight.
“I keep repeating to the players that this is the moment where everybody has a chance to feel important and has a chance to show what they can do. Even the people who don’t play a lot will of course play in this period.”
Mourinho refused to rule out Tottenham as title rivals as he moved on to discussing Premier League matters and his recent haircut.
“I don’t remember one round of fixtures when all of the six title contenders won and next week somebody will lose points again – that’s the Premier League,” he said.
“That’s why in Spain people complain the championship is not good, that’s why in Germany they are complaining the championship is not good.
“We should not complain about our Premier League, we should say that it is the best championship in the world.
“It’s better to lose one game 6-0 than lose six matches 1-0,” added Mourinho. “It’s better even if it hurts more.”
To laughter around the room, he said he had cut his own hair and then sent a picture to his wife for her approval, which was forthcoming. “I asked Fernando (Torres) to give me his machine. I did it myself in front of the mirror – it’s cheap,” explained Mourinho with a big grin.
“I sent a picture before I arrived home to see if I could get in. Yes, no problem.
“Some people can’t do what I did. In a couple of months I’ll have hair again. Some other people cannot do it.”
Torres is fit to return from an adductor injury which has forced him to miss the last three matches, but defender David Luiz did not travel to Switzerland due to a knee problem.
Juan Mata, the Blues’ player of the year in each of the last two seasons, has found opportunities limited this term and will get his chance in December.
“He (Mata) deserves to play but I can’t start with more than 11,” added Mourinho, who pointed out Germany’s Andre Schurrle, Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne and Willian of Brazil have also had limited chances.
Mourinho insists the onus at St Jakob Park is on Basel, who must match Schalke’s result with Steaua and beat the Germans next month to advance.
“They are under pressure and we are not,” he said. “We can finish the job to qualify and Basle, even if they win tomorrow, have to play a last final at Gelsenkirchen. For them, the situation is difficult. This shows clearly that, after the first match, we did our job and they didn’t do theirs.
“This Chelsea is better than the Chelsea that played at Stamford Bridge. Hopefully we can continue the good run we’ve had in the Champions League and finish the job tomorrow.”