Chelsea will do without the services of two of its regular stalwarts; goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and midfielder Cesc Fabregas on Saturday, when Hull City visit Stamford Bridge.
The ‘Blues’ are determined to return to winning ways after last week’s disappointing loss at Newcastle. Having advanced from the group stages of the Champions League as the only group winners from the English Premier League following Wednesday’s win over Sporting Lisbon, the leaders seek to concentrate on domestic competitions for the next three months during which their resolve will be sternly tested.
Belgian shot-stopper Courtois sustained an injury during training and Fabregas, who has made 11 assists and scored once in 1327 minutes of Chelsea game this season, will also not take part due to suspension but manager Jose Mourinho, speaking at his pre-match media briefing on Friday, reiterated his confidence in prospective replacement players.
Mourinho said: “It’s a chance for Petr and a chance for Mark to be on the bench so we’re more than comfortable.
“It’s very comfortable for me, for the players and for the fans to know our goalkeeper tomorrow is Petr Cech.
“It’s his natural habitat to be in goal and not on the bench. That’s why since the beginning of the season I have kept saying it’s perfect for me to have Petr in the squad.”
“Fabregas obviously has been amazing for us and is playing fantastically well but he is suspended tomorrow so we don’t think about him. We trust the other person that will have a chance to play, and Fabregas will be fresh to play against Derby.”
Tomorrow’s game is the first of six fixtures before the New Year’s Day trip to Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea’s last home game before Christmas. They return to the Capital One Cup in a last-eight clash with Derby County next Tuesday, with an FA Cup third-round match against Watford in the week after January 3 also on the agenda.
Mourinho had earlier stressed the essence of good conditions for players’ performance and to manage the team over the congested festive season, the Portuguese boss, 51, has opted for squad rotation, especially with the club set to play 5 league matches in 19 days as well as the League Cup clash with derby.
“I don’t think one player will play these six matches,” he disclosed. “The ones that play more will have to go to five. I think I have to give them one rest.
“We have two days off after the Derby game which allows the players to go home – not the South American ones because it’s very far – but the ones around England like Belgium, France, Germany and so on.
“They can go and have a nice dinner with their families. It’s the only two days I can give them. We play on Tuesday against Derby, I give them the Wednesday and Thursday off, and after that they’re back on Friday to play on Monday against Stoke.”
On his plans for the winter transfer window, Mourinho says Chelsea does not intend to recall AC Milan loanee Fernando Torres next month and that Egyptian striker Mohammed Salah remain a part of the club.
“Salah is our player, he is a player we like and a player we trust,’ Mourinho emphasised. ‘He is a player in our squad and he is going nowhere. He doesn’t go for sure. Maybe he moves house, but not club!” Mourinho said.