Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho insists captain John Terry will “of course” start against Atletico Madrid in their Champions League semi-final second leg tie on Wednesday.
The Portuguese boss was full of praise for the ex-England international, who has recovered from an ankle injury he picked up in last week’s first leg. He also lauded Terry’s fellow cohort, which has kept 16 clean sheets in all competitions this season, including the club’s last two outings.
“My captain is playing at the same level he was playing at when I left Chelsea in 2007,” Mourinho said in his pre-match media briefing. “It’s as simple as that. Six or seven years later he’s playing again at his best level. It’s fair to say that.
“It’s also fair to say the people that surround him, on his left and his right, and in front of him, are also playing fantastically. His partnership with Cahill is fantastic and the people that work together in the same areas are doing a very good job.”
Victory tonight at Stamford Bridge sets Chelsea up against Real Madrid in next month’s final in Lisbon. The Spanish giants cruised past cup holders Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday night.
Terry missed the ‘Blues’ first Champions League triumph in 2012 due to suspension and after initially ruling him out until the prospective May 24th final, Mourinho admits Europe’s biggest club competition “owes the centre-back something”.
“I’m really happy to see a player like him (Terry) six or seven years later back at the same level. I think he deserves more than what the Champions League has given to him up to now.
“He lost a few semi-finals in special circumstances. He lost a final in special circumstances. He won a final in special circumstances because he couldn’t play. The Champions League owes him something,” added Mourinho. “He starts tomorrow (Wednesday), of course.’”
Mourinho then said criticisms leveled against his side’s football strategy by “philosophers” don’t faze him as a tactician.
The West Londoners were heavily criticised for their defensive approach to Sunday’s 2-0 win at Liverpool while Atletico coach Diego Simeone previously admitted his side struggled to even up their opponents’ compact defence at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.
Mourinho said: “In this moment football is full of philosophers. It is full of people that understand it much more than me, and it is full of people with fantastic theories and philosophies.
“The reality is always the reality. The team that doesn’t defend well doesn’t have many chances to win. The team that doesn’t score a lot of goals – and if they also concede a lot of goals – is in trouble. A team without balance is not a team.
“When Atletico have the ball we have to defend, when we have the ball we have to attack. This is the football that I know. When the opponent has the ball you have to work defensively, you have to be organised. When you have the ball you have to try to play according to your players and according to the qualities of your opponent.
“When a team plays strategically, and thinks about the qualities of the team and the qualities of the opponent, 10 or 20 or 30 years ago they are a good, intelligent team.
“In this moment, depending on the coach and the club obviously, the critics speak but that is no problem.”