Monday, April 30, 2007

Jose demands fresh focus as Quadruple bid crumbles


As Gary Speed so amusingly explained, the pre-match reports of Sam Allardyce's imminent departure did not unsettle a united Bolton dressing room. "Half our lads can't read and the other half can't speak English," said the skipper with a wry smile.

But Chelsea's players performed in a fashion that suggested they had agonised over every word of their manager's programme notes.

"Welcome to our 59th game of the season and Bolton's 41st," wrote Jose Mourinho.

"On Wednesday we took a halftime lead in the Champions League semi-final. Bolton had a rest. They were able to prepare for today's match. We have had to rest."

If Mourinho was trying to convince his side they remained capable of winning an unprecedented Quadruple, reminding them just how demanding a season it has been was perhaps not the wisest thing to do. Nor, for that matter, was making six changes to a team who, having beaten Liverpool on Wednesday, now have to bounce back from this crushing setback and protect a one-goal advantage at Anfield tomorrow night.

Fortunately for Chelsea, Mourinho seemed keen to focus minds on the next challenge rather than dwell too long on what went wrong here.

He could not help but have another pop at Cristiano Ronaldo. His ego once again got the better of him there.

Mourinho did, however, dismiss talk of another conspiracy when it was pointed out that Manchester United's equaliser at Goodison Park had been scored by the brother of the United captain'.

A certain Phil Neville no less, once of Old Trafford and now of Everton and someone, Mourinho may now have seen, who had his hair ruffled by an ecstatic Sir Alex Ferguson at the end of his team's 4-2 victory.

Mourinho said he was nobody to doubt the moral integrity of a player' and then did his best to ignore the fact that he may have lost his best defender of the season' for the second leg of Chelsea's Champions League semi-final.

Ricardo Carvalho's knee injury was bad', he said, before noting the Portuguese centre half's absence when Chelsea lost at Anfield in the Premiership earlier this season.

Surgery for Michael Ballack means the German will also be missing but Mourinho was determined to look on the bright side.

When they lost to Liverpool in the Champions League semifinal two years ago they had just won the title with victory at Bolton. "Who knows," he said.

"This time we lose two crucial points and we go there and we go to the Final."

The positive mental attitude mantra then continued. "It's always better when you win," he said. "Happiness helps your legs and your physical condition.

"But I think it helps having the game on Tuesday because there is no time to be sad. It is very, very important to be strong mentally and to understand the big game we are playing on Tuesday. That's the best way to forget it."

Mourinho delivered a rousing speech to his players immediately after this match. "I had my team-talk with them after the game," he revealed. "It was nothing special but I wanted them to remember where we are and what we are doing and what we have to do.

"They have still achieved a lot and have a lot they can win. They have a big chance on Tuesday to do something incredible for their careers and for this club.

"We won two titles in England in the previous two seasons and we tried, and we keep trying, to get the Treble.

"But if we can reach another final, like we reached two already this season, the Carling Cup and the FA Cup, if we can reach the Champions League Final, be second in the Premiership and reach three finals, that will be an unbelievable feeling."

Second in the Premiership? It appears he has now all but conceded defeat in the title race.

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