Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho will risk prolific goal-scorer Diego Costa for the Uefa Champions League clash with Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon and hopes he will be ready for next weekend’s domestic commitments.
The Portuguese boss, 51, on arrival at the Estadio Jose Alvalade- venue of Tuesday evening’s Group G match and the Lisbon club’s ground where his managerial journey gained footing in the early 1990s as assistant to Sir Bobby Robson- disclosed to reporters that Didier Drogba had not traveled with the team because of an ankle sprain.
The Ivorian striker is expected to be sidelined for two weeks, leaving Costa, Loic Remy and Mohammed Salah as the three outright centre-forwards at Mourinho’s disposal.
The Spaniard, 25, despite an nagging hamstring problem, has had a fantastic start to his Chelsea career and netted his eighth goal in Saturday’s win over Villa at Stamford Bridge.
“Diego starts. Hopefully he plays again on Sunday, against Arsenal, but at the moment I don’t think about Arsenal, I think about Sporting and Diego starts tomorrow,” said Mourinho.
“There is a risk, yes, but he plays. We assume the risk and he plays. Hopefully everything goes well and hopefully from Tuesday to Sunday he has enough period of time to be back on track and play against Arsenal.
“It’s an important game for us tomorrow, a difficult game. If I can play my best players and the team I think is the best team to try to get us a result, I’m not going to make any changes. That also gives me some players on the bench with the quality to help me, which can help me change the direction of the game. We are ready for another fight tomorrow.
“Drogba is going to be out for a couple of weeks. He had a problem in the training session with his ankle, so it was not possible for him to travel and I think it will not be possible for him to recover for Sunday.”
Both opponents will fancy the prospect of taking maximum points, having drawn their maiden group games by identical scorelines. They are yet unbeaten this season, but the Premier League leaders have impressed the more in domestic campaigns.
Sporting drew 1-1 with Porto last Friday; their fourth in previous five games, while Chelsea have only drawn once- at English champions Manchester City.
They have however lost just once in 11 home games against English opponents (Manchester United’s 1-0 success on 19 September 2007)- won 7 and drawn 3- while Chelsea have not won in three Champions League trips (L2, D1). Mourinho, despite acknowledging the difficulty of the match insists his side are not likely to give away points.
He added: “A good result is to win. We will try to win but to desire and to achieve are two different things.
“Sporting has its weapons. A point could be considered a good result [for them]. Will the team mount its strategy based on the goal of achieving one point? On Friday we saw a team that is not going for a draw. If they stick to themselves and assume their identity then it will be a great match and a great return for Sporting to the Champions League.”
Mourinho’s time at Sporting was short-lived. He is better known for his spell in charge of their great rivals Porto, where he won two Primeira Liga titles, the Champions League and the Uefa Cup (now Europa Cup).
The manager yet has fond memories of his home club, where all that ‘Special’ story began.
“Pride, a sense of pride,’ Mourinho responded, when quizzed on the feelings facing one of his foremost teams bring to mind. “I was all I could be at this club. I tried to assist as much as I could at the beginning of my career. The only bad memory I had was when I left, but I have no grudges of course.
“I’s been a long time since I faced a Portuguese team in the Champions League, since 2006/07. It’s a great joy to return.
“If I could choose ultimately the outcome of this group I would place Chelsea at number one and Sporting at number two.”