Ahead of his first visit to Loftus Road as a manager, Jose Mourinho discussed player availability, midfield choices and the significance of Sunday’s derby with Queens Park Rangers.
As we seek to hone in on the final five wins that will guarantee this season’s Premier League title, our opponents QPR are scrapping for vital points at the wrong end of the table. They are currently in 18th position.
Add in the fact that this is a London derby and it is no wonder Mourinho was keen to limit his focus to this weekend’s match as he responded to questions at his customary pre-match press conference at our Cobham training base.
There was team news to report first and the manager confirmed only Diego Costa is injured.
‘Everybody else is fine and ready,’ he said. ‘Mikel is ready; Fabregas with a mask is ready too. No problems.
‘Diego will certainly be back,’ was the boss’s response when pushed on the extent of Diego Costa’s injury.
‘We have eight matches to play, and if he plays four it’s normal. If he plays three it’s a little bit below what I’m expecting, and if he plays five it’s a little bit more than what I am expecting. I am thinking four matches.’
Another forward that was brought up on more than one occasion was Yoshinori Muto, the FC Tokyo player who this week has been linked in the press with a summer move to Chelsea. In particular, those Japanese journalists present were eager to hear what Mourinho had to say.
The manager confirmed he knows about the striker but stressed he doesn’t believe in talking further about another team’s player. He also emphasised any signing Chelsea make is done because of the player’s quality and potential, and not for any commercial reason.
Focusing back on matters on the pitch and Sunday’s derby game, it was put to Mourinho that he might rest either Nemanja Matic or Fabregas, both of whom are a booking away from a two-match suspension that would mean they missed forthcoming fixtures with Man United and Arsenal.
‘No’ was his immediate response. This is the final weekend 10 yellow cards over the season will earn you a ban.
‘They will both start,’ he added. ‘It’s always the same. We try not to get yellow cards during a match, we try to play football.
‘To give an idea, in the last match our opponent made 22 fouls, we made five – it’s been like this for almost the whole season.
‘If they have to make a foul for a yellow card – a foul you have to do – they have to do it, but the way we play it’s not easy for our players to be booked.
‘The game is a three-point game. We need points, we need victories and we cannot choose matches. It doesn’t make any sense to think about some matches and not about others.’
Mourinho has never managed at Loftus Road where the proximity of the fans to the pitch can sometimes make it a noisy place to visit.
‘People in the stands can play a role but they cannot score goals,’ the boss pointed out.
‘The referee and the assistants are there, so I’m not worried. I go just focused on playing our game and trying to win.
‘To be top of the league since day one shows our consistency, stability, confidence and a brave approach to every game. We deserve to be there.
‘Obviously it’s very important for both teams. We know that. Nobody is expecting an easy match. Last weekend we played against a team that is very stable in the middle of the table and they were fantastic in their approach, their commitment, trying to win the match or not losing it. That’s proper football.
‘I know QPR have [played] one more match than the teams that are competing with them. Everybody knows they need points in the remaining six fixtures they have, so we know it will be a difficult game for us.
‘It’s a three-point match and we have to play with our maximum power to try to get them.’