Jose Mourinho says Chelsea’s style change to blame for defeats

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There is never a dull moment when Jose Mourinho is around… but right now, there are a few too many defeats.

Following their second loss in a week, the Portuguese manager blamed Chelsea’s recent poor form on their bad style of play that has been developed over the previous years,

Mourinho claims he is trying to change the way they play, to a more attractive and aesthetically pleasing manner.

“I don’t like the way Chelsea were playing in the last couple of years,” Mourinho said. “The club doesn’t like it and we want to change. When you want to build something different and the players are adapted and comfortable – it’s more difficult.”

Tomorrow’s West London Derby against Fulham, (12:30pm ET, watch live on NBCSN or online via NBC Sports Live Extra) presents the perfect opportunity for Chelsea to get back to winning ways after a rough seven days. But will the ‘Special One’ play it safe against the Blues’ neighbors?

Of course not.

“If someone expects me to play against Fulham tomorrow with nine players behind the ball and wait for them to make a mistake and win 1-0, then I will not go home happy,” Mourinho said. “We have a lot to do. The work I have to do does not sell papers – big defeats and big victories do – but the only thing I can do is to have belief in my players and wait for the results to come.”

(MORE: Preview – Chelsea vs. Fulham)

But despite being under heavy criticism from some portions of the press, the man Chelsea fans adore knows only too well just how fickle the game can be.

“Tomorrow maybe we win 3-0 against Fulham and everything is perfect,” Mourinho said. “Or maybe I will lose for the first time at home at Chelsea in four years and 200 league matches, and it is a big story. Football is not mathematic. I don’t know.”

Yet, it seems like Mourinho believes that previous managers have only been worried about grinding out wins with the West London club, instead of developing and nurturing free-flowing attacking soccer that will please the masses. True. There’s no denying that under the last few managers a defensive and rather dull style of play has emanated from the boys in blue.

(MORE: Basel pull of first Champions League upset, beat Chelsea)

However, can you blame Messrs Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo and Rafael Benitez? All three were under huge amounts of pressure to succeed straight away. AVB had no success after less than six months on the job, but his predecessor Di Matteo somehow won the UEFA Champions League through a spirited mishmash of veteran determination, staunch defensive displays and lady luck. And then, following Di Matteo’s crazy dismissal, Rafael Benitez was yet another interim boss given the reigns. He had no time to work on a new style of play at Chelsea, and instead carried on with the status quo.

source: AP
Chelsea are failing to click into an attacking rhythm, as Mourinho tries to usher in a new style of play.

After all those short-term appointments and the various different players brought in, Mourinho is now left to pick up the pieces. I’m not saying he hasn’t inherited a squad that doesn’t possess world class players, because he has. But they are players who have been pulled one way, then the other, in terms of their tactical approach to play the game, after having so many coaches and ideas thrown at them over the past two seasons.

Now, Mourinho has a long-term project, a mantra to get Chelsea back to playing attacking soccer that will excite and delight the fans and make them one of Europe’s greatest teams. And despite Roman Abramovich’s ruthless style of ownership that has seen Mourinho himself fired in the past and many others after him, the Russian billionaire should give the ‘Special One’ time to develop a special brand of soccer at Chelsea.

This won’t be easy. There will be speed bumps along the way — just like Everton last weekend and Basel midweek — but if Mourinho is given time to work with these top players on the training ground over an extended period of time, there’s no doubt that one of the greatest coaches European soccer has ever seen will get it right.

It takes time to create a thing of beauty. Get off Mourinho’s back and let his ‘young eggs’ flourish.

Money from Wembley replay will ‘support Rochdale for two or three years’

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Worst-case scenario for Tottenham Hotspur: drawing League One side Rochdale in Sunday’s FA Cup fifth-round clash; best-case scenario for the Dale: drawing the Premier League giants and forcing a replay at Wembley Stadium.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

For a club the size of Rochdale — 10,200-seat stadium, and never been above the third tier of English soccer — the financial impact of raking in half of the game’s gate receipts “will support the club for the next two or three years,” according to manager Keith Hill — quotes from the Guardian:

“I don’t know how much it is worth but a lot of money has gone into the new pitch. That was a heavy investment for us. Hopefully the money we make will support the club for the next two or three years. We will cut our cloth accordingly and we won’t be in debt.”

As for Steve Davies’ 93rd-minute equalizer, Hill was adamant that it was nothing short of what they “deserved”:

“It was a feeling of reward, not relief, because the performance deserved at least the opportunity for us to go to Wembley for a replay. I’ve always wanted to do that against a Premier League team and manager. Why not take them on and try to win? It could have been football suicide but I thought we gained their respect and to score the goal we did was tremendous. The players were magnificent.”

Tottenham Hotspur, soccer philanthropists.

Try, try again: Messi seeks 1st goal vs. Chelsea in 9th attempt

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LONDON (AP) As unlikely as it sounds, Lionel Messi is still waiting to score his first goal against Chelsea after drawing a blank in eight previous Champions League matches.

The five-time World Player of the Year is likely to get another chance to break his duck this week and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte believes the past will count for little when Barcelona visits Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

“I hope we maintain this tradition but we are speaking about a fantastic player,” Conte said ahead of the last-16, first-leg Champions League game. “The most important thing is the present.

“We must have great respect but at the same time we must be excited to play this type of game and take on this type of challenge. It won’t be easy because we know very well this player, we are talking about one of the best in the world.”

The teams have produced some epic games in the past although they have not met in the Champions League since Chelsea pulled off a remarkable backs-to-the-wall semifinal victory over Barcelona on the way to winning the trophy in 2012.

Messi missed a penalty in the second leg at the Nou Camp as the London club overcame the first-half dismissal of captain John Terry, and a 2-0 deficit, to draw the game 2-2 and secure an unforgettable 3-2 aggregate win.

Bayern Munich hosts Besiktas in Tuesday’s other game while the following day sees Manchester United traveling to Sevilla, and Shakhtar Donetsk playing host to Roma.

Two weeks ago, the prospect of a Chelsea win over Barca would have been unthinkable after Conte’s men had slumped to successive defeats by two of the Premier League’s lesser lights.

The London club was still smarting from a 3-0 home loss against Bournemouth when it traveled to Watford and succumbed to an embarrassing 4-1 reverse.

Chelsea has got back on track since then, though, easing past West Bromwich Albion 3-0 in the league last Monday before swatting aside second-tier Hull 4-0 in the FA Cup four days later.

Conte has several selection dilemmas. He must choose between captain Gary Cahill and Antonio Rudiger for a place at the back, and between Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud up front.

Cesc Fabregas will also be desperate to play against his former team but may have to settle for a spot on the bench.

Barca has lost only once in 38 matches this season since falling in the Spanish Super Cup to Real Madrid in August. It has a seven-point lead at the top of La Liga and has reached the final of the Copa del Rey.

Messi is having another stellar campaign, scoring 27 times in all competitions, and he helped set up two goals in Saturday’s 2-0 win at Eibar.

Philippe Coutinho is ineligible for Barca following his move from Liverpool.

Mourinho claiming injury crisis ahead of CL showdown

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The next three weeks will go a long way toward defining Jose Mourinho’s second season at Manchester United, with the Red Devils facing not only fellow top-four aspirers Chelsea and Liverpool, but also contesting their Champions League round-of-16 tie with Sevilla.

[ MORE: VAR provider admits incorrect graphic displayed on TV ]

Thus, it’s not exactly the most convenient time for the words “injury crisis” to rear their ugly heads yet again, but that’s the challenge Mourinho claims he faces ahead of Wednesday’s CL clash.

Paul Pogba missed Saturday’s FA Cup victory with a last-minute illness; Marcus Rashford is dealing with a leg injury and remains questionable, as are Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia; Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Marouane Fellaini are all but officially out, according to Mourinho — quotes from ESPN.co.uk:

“I didn’t rest one single player so we had today every player available here. I didn’t rest anyone. I brought two kids that played on Friday 90 minutes [for the under-23s] because I don’t have another player, so we arrive at this crucial moment with some problems.”

“Can we recover some of them to Wednesday? I believe so. I think Rashford, Herrera, Valencia — I think they have a chance.

“Paul, I don’t know. Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Marouane, Zlatan — I don’t think they have any chance.”

Mourinho dealt with a similar rash of injuries very late on last season, as his side barreled its way into, and eventually won, the Europa League final, securing a place in the CL this season. With a top-four finish all but out of reach at the time, Mourinho opted to rest his bare-bones group of first-team regulars in Premier League action and prioritize Europe’s “other” competition.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

This time around, United sit second in the PL table, just four points clear of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur, and the path to winning the CL will prove far more difficult than taking on the likes of Saint-Etienne, Rostov, Anderlecht, Celta Vigo and Ajax.

Serie A: Napoli, Juve hold serve in 1-point title race

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Barcelona now 31 games unbeaten | Real Madrid 17 points behind ]

Napoli 1-0 SPAL 2013

The battle for Serie A supremacy isn’t ending anytime soon, as Napoli and Juventus continue to match one another (nine straight wins for each side) in Europe’s only remaining major title race.

On Sunday, they even traded 1-0 victories — Napoli at home to SPAL 2013, with Juve triumphing over Torino in the Turin derby.

Brazilian midfielder Allan bagged the only goal for Napoli after just six minutes, finishing off a mesmerizing, free-flowing move that’s become synonymous with Napoli this season. The video-assisting referee came into play just after the hour mark, when Marek Hamsik headed home to make it 2-0 before the VAR wiped it away for offside.

Napoli’s current nine-game winning streak is the longest in club history.

Torino 0-1 Juventus

Juve’s victory came at something of a cost, though, as star striker Gonzalo Higuain was lost to an ankle injury after just a quarter-hour (the injury occurred after just three minutes), followed by a potentially serious knee injury for Federico Bernardeschi, who replaced Higuain, in second-half stoppage time. Higuain isn’t expected to miss significant time, with the club calling it a twisted ankle.

In between the injuries came Alex Sandro‘s 33rd-minute winner, a tap-in from close range masterfully set up by Bernardeschi. One additional positive for Juve: Sunday also saw Paulo Dybala return after missing five weeks with a hamstring injury. The Argentine star entered as a second-half substitute.

“Paulo played 30 minutes at a good level,” Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri said. “I’m pleased with his and everyone else’s performance. This is a good result against a well-organized Torino side.”

Elsewhere in Serie A

AC Milan 1-0 Sampdoria
Atalanta 1-1 Fiorentina
Bologna 2-1 Sassuolo
Benevento 3-2 Crotone