Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has the chance to put off-field headlines to one side this weekend when he takes his men to Manchester City for an early test of both teams’ title credentials.
Mourinho’s criticism of his medical staff – specifically doctor Eva Carneiro – after last Saturday’s 2-2 home draw with Swansea City has been a hot topic over the last few days.
The Portuguese was angered that Eden Hazard had been given treatment that meant he then had to go off the pitch, briefly leaving Chelsea with nine players following Thibaut Courtois’ earlier dismissal.
Mourinho addressed the subject in his pre-match media conference on Friday, insisting that he has a good relationship with his medical staff before confirming that Carneiro and physiotherapist Jon Fearn will not be on the bench at the Etihad Stadium.
The Portuguese preferred to field football-related questions and says people should not be alarmed at his lack of activity in the transfer market.
“The club wants titles, the players want titles, the fans want titles,” he said. “We are not top of the league in relation to the spenders, it doesn’t mean people have to be worried.
“The transfer window is not closed, secondly because you don’t always have to be champion in the market and third, because we do things when we have to do, when we think we can do.
“People were disappointed we didn’t buy a striker and people were disappointed, but we knew Diego Costa was coming. Sometimes you have to think more than the moment and this is why we don’t try to explain everything publicly because we work inside.”
With Courtois suspended, Asmir Begovic will likely make his first league start for Chelsea, while Oscar is a doubt wth a knock.
City were the most impressive of the title contenders in the opening round, dispatching West Brom 3-0 with an assured display at The Hawthorns.
Yaya Toure scored a stunning goal in that win, while there is some debate about whether he should be claiming a brace after David Silva deflected in an earlier effort, and manager Manuel Pellegrini stressed the crucial role the Ivorian plays in his side.
“I always say Yaya is very important for us,” Pellegrini said. “We can play without him, but it’s better if he plays. Last season he went to the African Nations Cup and the team couldn’t win in the same way.
“He’s an important player so I hope he will be a regular player, that will be important to our options.”
Sergio Aguero appeared as a substitute at West Brom and is still not 100 per cent fit, according to Pellegrini, while Gael Clichy (ankle) is doubtful and Fabian Delph (hamstring) and Fernando (knock) are definitely out.
Even at this early stage, some are billing Sunday’s clash as a potential title decider, a notion which Pellegrini rejects as City prepare to play in their newly extended stadium for the first time.
“We are not thinking about the title in our second game, but about winning our points at home,” he said.
“We’re playing against champions, against one of the teams that has a chance to win the title, so to try to win the three points at home is very important.”