VIDEO: Jose Mourinho bullish, stands by decision to remove Carneiro, Fearn from bench

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LONDON — “I haven’t seen it this packed in years,” said one local journalist in the tiny press lounge at Chelsea Cobham training ground in London’s suburbs

[ MORE: Mourinho irked by Carneiro’s FB post ]

On Friday, media members flocked to see what Jose Mourinho had to say following his public criticism, then demotion, of two members of his medical staff made headlines around the world.

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The manager of the reigning Premier League champions looked as you would expect throughout: surly, unimpressed and defiant. It’s a look we’ve come to know well over the years as he sat and address the media from his perch three to four feet above the rest of the room.

Mourinho started by refusing to admit he’d done anything wrong in removing both Eva Carneiro and Jon Fearn from the bench for all first-team matches, plus not letting them attend the team hotel and training sessions ahead of games for the foreseeable future. All of this comes after Carneiro and Fearn ran onto the pitch — beckoned by referee Michael Oliver to do so — late in Chelsea’s opening day game against Swansea City to treat an injured Eden Hazard.

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Already down to 10-men following Thibaut Courtois’ red card, Mourinho was incensed that his medical staff “didn’t understand the game” and momentarily left him with only eight outfield players as Swansea attacked.

Before Mourinho’s press conference began, Chelsea’s head of communications revealed that two other members of Chelsea’s medical staff will be on the bench for the clash against Manchester City on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) but that their names will not be released.

Addressing the media for the first time since widespread criticism of his decision to demote two highly respected members of his medical staff, here’s what Mourinho had to say, in just under 15 minutes, to a packed out press room.

Mourinho’s opening statement after asked if Carneiro, Fearn will be on bench and if he has any regrets:

I hope this room is full because the champions are going to play against the former champions. Because the transfer window is on fire and in the last period, because we have, hopefully, a big match on Sunday. But I knew it already, it is not a surprise. Your question is probably… most of the people here don’t even like football. They come for other reasons.

 I don’t want to run away from it. I accept the question and understand the question. First of all I want to say I have a fantastic medical department with a top leader. With more than a dozen professional between doctors and physios and masseurs and specialist of different areas. I have a good relation with them.

As they tell me all the time, they were never praised so much as there were with me in the last couple of years. Because normally managers, when things go well they keep for themselves but when they have problems with injuries and related to medical department. That is when they talk about the medical department. I

I praise them lots of times in these couple of years. They don’t forget that, I don’t forget that. As they also told me yesterday, we have disagreements during this period. We need disagreements to improve. We work together. We improve together. That’s the way we do things.

This, I want to make it very, very clear. Your question about the bench, I have to say for some people the bench is very important. For other people it is not important. For some people it is not what people think you do, it is what you do. 

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The bench is my responsibility, yes. It is my decision, it is nobody else’s decision. Every week I face a decision about the bench. Every week with 25 players, 11 on the pitch, seven on the bench and seven of them are not even on the bench. I have to choose. I have seven assistants, only four can go on the bench. I have four kit men, only one can be on the bench. With the medical department, only two can go on the bench and we have more than a dozen. It is important to be on the bench for some, for others it is more important for their contribution. What they do.

I understand the question, I don’t want to run away from the question. John Fearn and Dr. Carneiro, they will not be on the bench but it doesn’t mean that Sunday is the rest of our season or the rest of our careers. They will not be on the bench on Sunday, that is clear, that decision is my responsibility but it doesn’t mean they will not be on the bench in the future.

 If you want to speak with me about football, I’m here. If you want to speak to me about other issues, I am not here.

On if he regretted any part of his action:

I have no problem answering. You can take your conclusion by what I said. My relation with everyone who works, the majority, is an open relation, it is a relation open to disagreements, critic. The game is a very emotional space for every one of us. If a player has a bad reaction with a colleague or a member of staff. Football is football. The match is a match. Everything in a match can be different. Especially after the meeting I had with my medical department yesterday, where I got enough feedback to understand the way we have been doing things for two years and the kind of relation we have between all of us, allows us to have this kind of relation.

On the preparation for the game vs. Man City being impacted:

If somebody thinks that a disagreement between two members of the medical staff and the manager can affect the week, it is somebody who doesn’t have a a clue about what football is and preparation for matches. It is obviously not. The season is very, very long. We are speaking about 38 matches. 38 matches is an eternity. It is a marathon that started last week and ends in a around 10 months.

I cannot say it is crucial, I cannot say it is decisive. I cannot say that it is very, very important. But, two title contenders, three points. If you can get three and your opponents zero, it is important. I’m not going to say the game isn’t important but for sure the game doesn’t decide anything for the winner or the loser.

On team news:

Oscar is a doubt, he had a little injury in training. Courtois is suspended as you know. Apart from that, all good.

On if all successful managers have to be ruthless:

I speak about myself, I don’t speak about other managers. I am far from being ruthless. Far. Far. I have a fantastic relation with almost everyone who works with me. I am open to mistakes, communication dialogue, critics. I make mistakes. And as some people in my medical staff said to me yesterday, we work together, we improve together. I am far from being ruthless.

On Chelsea fans being concerned about lack of transfer activity:

Chelsea supporters are worried about the transfer window, they must be until the moment Mr. Abramovich bought the club. Since Mr. Arbamovich bought the club, Chelsea supporters cannot speak in a negative way about the transfer market. They have to only speak in a positive way and praise the owner and praise the board. The dedication and all the owner did for the club has been absolutely amazing and is obviously a fantastic contribution to the success the team had in previous years. We managers, we won titles. Players won titles, the club won titles.

Everybody had a contribution and I think the contribution of the owner as being massive in that aspect. If in this moment we are not top of the league in relation to the spenders, it doesn’t mean people have to be worried. First of all the transfer window is not closed, it is open until the August 31. Second, you don’t always have to be ‘champion in the market.’ Third, we do things when we have to do and when we think we can do it at the right moment. For example when two years ago we didn’t buy a striker and people was a bit disappointed we didn’t buy a striker, we didn’t buy a striker because we knew the next year Diego Costa is coming and is coming for a price that is established in his contract. Sometimes you have to think more than the moment. Many, many times is the reason why we don’t discuss things publicly or explain publicly because we work inside. The owner is the owner and he will be the owner for many, many years. The board has such a close relation with the owner. The board just gave me a four-year contract. We are in great stability and we work fantastically well.

On speaking to the players about why the doctors won’t be on the bench:

No. Why? With the players? No. Because the players, the only thing they need to be worried about is to have the best people around them. In this club they are surrounded by top quality people, they trust everybody the same way. In fact the most important thing for the players is the medical care they have during the week. They have to be in condition to perform the best they can.

On speaking to Eden Hazard about the incident: 

I’m not discussing it. That’s my problem.

Rankings the comeback potential of Champions League sides

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Maybe Group H of the UEFA Champions League was very soft.

Chelsea and Valencia are in massive holes after 90 minutes of the Round of 16, and third-place Ajax is a 2-0 hole in its Europa League tie.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The other six teams’ disadvantages after one leg range from tricky to barely existent.

Let’s rate which teams have the best chances to climb back and earn a spot in the quarterfinals.

8. Chelsea (down 3-0 to Bayern Munich after home leg)

Robert Lewandowski’s injury hurts the Bavarians, but not three goals worth of hurt. And Serge Gnabry has been the one sounding death knells for London clubs.

7. Valencia (down 4-1 to Atalanta after away leg)

The away goal combined with the Serie A side’s relative inexperience in the competition gives Valencia a bit more hope than Chelsea.

6. Napoli (level at 1 with Barcelona after home leg)

On the plus side, Gennaro Gattuso’s men are level. That said, they allowed an away goal to Barca and have to go to the Camp Nou against a side yearning to make better UCL memories.

5. Real Madrid (down 2-1 to Man City after home leg)

Who knows what Pep Guardiola will launch at the Etihad Stadium, but giving him two away goals and a lead opens up his playbook? As for Zinedine Zidane, it was all so one dimensional at the Bernabeu. What’s he have cooking?

4. Tottenham Hotspur (down 1-0 to RB Leipzig after home leg)

Spurs have better UEL experience than their second leg hosts, though the striker problems looms over Jose Mourinho’s plans.

3. Liverpool (down 1-0 to Atletico Madrid after away leg)

It’s easy to imagine the Reds’ rebounding, and even Atleti will doubt its potential to keep Liverpool off the scoreboard at Anfield.

2. Paris Saint-Germain (down 2-1 to Borussia Dortmund after away leg)

Dortmund’s allowed plenty of goals this season, and PSG’s attack is stacked.

1. Juventus (down 1-0 to Lyon after away leg)

It’s difficult to imagine Juve playing as poor as they did Wednesday when they head back to Turin. The Old Lady knew something was wrong in warm-ups. They’ll address it, but can they keep Lyon off the board?

 

Europa League preview: Arsenal, Wolves, Man Utd look to advance

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Fifteen places remain up for grabs in the Europa League’s Round of 16 after Steven Gerrard’s Rangers handled Braga in Wednesday’s lone second leg.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Notable names Porto, Benfica, and Ajax enter their second legs with hills to climb, while the three Premier League teams have varying degrees of advantage.

Manchester United v. Club Brugge

United enters the second leg at Old Trafford with an away goal advantage after the 1-1 draw in Belgium.

Luke Shaw says the Red Devils are driven by a desire to play for silverware, and the UEL joins the FA Cup as their lone opportunities to claim trophies this year.

“It is a massive ambition for me,” said Shaw, via The Manchester Evening News. “I was there for the Europa League final, and the feeling, even though I wasn’t on the pitch, was a feeling I have not felt and I wanted more of. I wasn’t involved and that is what is pushing me on even more to get into this final, and others. We should be in finals and we should be in all competitions until the end. We are very confident at the moment.”

Arsenal v. Olympiacos

The Gunners claimed a 1-0 result in Greece, and know a draw will be enough to bring Mikel Arteta‘s men to the Round of 16.

The manager was asked what’s different about his Gunners, now back in contention to qualify for Europe via the Premier League table.

“I think the team is progressing well, the club is in a better place,” Arteta said, via Football.London. “We are getting much more unity on the sections of the club and as well a great energy back from the fans every time we play at the Emirates and away from the Emirates. There are a lot of positive things but there are still things to improve individually, collectively and as a club and we are in that process at the moment.”

Espanyol v. Wolves

Wolves rang up a four-goal advantage at the Molineux, and that may give Nuno Espirito Santo a chance to use his depth for a rare time this season.

The boss has counted on players like Conor Coady, Rui Patricio, and Raul Jimenez in all tournaments, and he admits that it’s worn on the squad.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve not suffered,” said Espirito Santo via Wolves’ site. “It’s been tough with a tight schedule, very demanding on the players and I think the credit is on them – the way they compete, the way they prepare themselves to compete, but it’s tough, very tough. … The credit is for the players, it’s for the staff, but the players buying, believing and working very hard, is what makes things go well.”

Look out for Diogo Jota if he plays; The Wolves star has five goals in his past two matches.

Thursday’s second legs

12:55 p.m. ET kickoffs
Istanbul Basaksehir (1-3) v. Sporting Lisbon
Gent (0-1) v. Roma
Malmo (1-2) v. Wolfsburg
LASK (1-1) v. AZ Alkmaar
Porto (1-2) v. Bayer Leverkusen
Espanyol (0-4) v. Wolves
Basel (3-0) v. APOEL Nicosia

3 p.m. ET
Manchester United (1-1) v. Club Brugge
Celtic (1-1) v. Copenhagen
Benfica (1-2) v. Shakhtar Donetsk
Red Bull Salzburg (1-4) v. Eintracht Frankfurt
Inter Milan (2-0) v. Ludogorets Razgrad
Ajax (0-2) v. Getafe
Sevilla (1-1) v. CFR Cluj
Arsenal (1-0) v. Olympiacos

Juventus ‘could tell something wasn’t switched on’ in Lyon

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Juventus’ obsession with winning another European Cup has the club on edge after a 1-0 first leg loss to Lyon on Wednesday in the first leg of the Round of 16.

Stalwart defender Leonardo Bonucci, defender Danilo, and manager Maurizio Sarri were less than pleased with the performance.

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Bonucci was spotted yelling at substitute midfielder Blaise Matuidi in warm-ups, and that was a prelude to a poor performance from most of the team.

“I didn’t tell Matuidi off, I told him the team includes those who are on the bench and we must all be ready to contribute,” Bonucci said, via Football-Italia. “I could tell something wasn’t switched on with the XI starters either. We’ve got to sort this out, as these are the things that make the difference.”

Sarri, the system man, is quite upset with his players after what he said was a lightning-fast training session on Tuesday.

“I don’t know why, I cannot get the players to understand the importance of moving the ball quickly,” said the flummoxed ex-Chelsea man. “This is fundamental, we’ll keep working on it and sooner or later this concept will get into their heads.”

Sarri was happier with the ball movement in the second half, and will expect Juve to do the same in its home second leg.

Danilo had a decent day in the loss. He didn’t sugar coat the performance.

“We cannot just gift the first half to the opposition in such an important tournament. We are aware that we did that and need to work harder,” Danilo said.

Guardiola ‘so proud’ of Man City comeback; KDB, Jesus react to tactics

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Pep Guardiola was grinning widely after his tactical moves set up Manchester City in a 2-1 comeback win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

“I’m so proud,” Guardiola said. “This is the first step. It’s not over. We can enjoy the moment.”

Why wouldn’t he be smiling? Guardiola became the first manager to win Champions League games at the Bernabeu with two different teams, and did it during one of the most controversial periods in club history.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

What was different? Well, Guardiola played Kevin De Bruyne as a sort of second striker and took center forward Gabriel Jesus and deployed him as a left-sided midfielder.

“In the four years we are here with Pep, sometimes there are some surprises,” De Bruyne said. “Even the players don’t really know before the game starts what we need to do. Some were good. We had some lesser moments but in a quality game like this you’re gonna struggle but we fought really well together.”

Jesus had it even weirder, playing as a sort of left midfielder or even wingback with plenty of responsibility going back and forward.

The Brazilian said he has some experience playing wide, but — again — you have to be ready for the full Pep Guardiola experience.

“I can remember my time in the Palmeiras academy and I play like a winger and then become a striker,” he said. “But I go to the pitch to help my team-mates. It doesn’t matter if I have to run back or forwards. I have to help my team-mates. We are learning a lot. We have to play different positions sometimes.”

Guardiola knows the second leg is going to be tough, as Real will put everything into attack.

“When we were better, we conceded a goal,” Guardiola said, via the BBC. “When they were better, we scored a goal. That’s football. I remember the quarterfinal a few seasons ago at Anfield when we played incredibly well and they scored all their shots on target.”

Real will be without center back Sergio Ramos, who was sent off late, while Man City could be missing its best center back. Aymeric Laporte subbed off in the first half.