Jose Mourinho insists he has been left with no choice but to send out an under-strength Chelsea team in today’s League Cup fourth round clash at Arsenal.
Mourinho is fuming that League Cup fixture planners decided to schedule Chelsea’s trip to the Emirates Stadium just 48 hours after his side’s 2-1 win over Manchester City in the Premier League.
The Blues boss claims Arsenal have been given an unfair advantage because they played at Crystal Palace on Saturday lunchtime, giving them extra time to recover before the London derby.
Mourinho’s complaints ignore the fact that Gunners manager Arsene Wenger routinely fields shadow squads made up of fringe players and youngsters in the League Cup, but that didn’t stop the Portuguese coach letting rip when asked if he would field a strong team for the last 16 tie.
“We are going to give the game that the people that put the game on Tuesday want. If they want a big game, we cannot give the big game,” Mourinho said.
“If they want the players that were playing today (Sunday), we cannot give them that. If they want Arsenal to win a trophy, that’s a help.
“If they want a big game between two big teams in London, they should put the game on Wednesday and not on Tuesday, because I am not going to do that.”
Mourinho claimed that, out of respect for Chelsea’s fans, he would stop short of sending out a starting line-up made up entirely of youth team players. But he has no intention of putting his key stars under what he believes is unfair duress.
“It’s not the plan because we have to respect also our fans. We discussed that in the club. We have to protect our players,” he said. “We cannot put our players in two matches in the space of three days. Arsenal played Saturday at 12:30, so two and a half days to rest and to prepare.”
With both sides set to field weakened teams, the edge has been taken off what could have been an fascinating clash between the top two teams in the current Premier League standings.
And, asked about their relationship on Sunday, Mourinho was unable to resist another mischievous jab at the Frenchman. “We have no problems, no. Unless you tell me that he had an influence on this (the timing of matches).”