Mourinho bids to ease packed winter period

CHELSEA manager Jose Mourinho admits he has missed English football’s traditionally packed winter schedule, but hopes to reduce the strain on his team with victory against FC Basel tonight to seal qualification to the Champions League knockout stages and top spot in Group E.

A draw at St Jakob-Park would be enough for Mourinho’s side to advance, but a victory would give Chelsea an unassailable lead at the top of the group with one match to spare.

And while Mourinho is looking forward to the challenge of completing nine matches in December, the former Inter Milan and Real Madrid manager wants his team to ensure the visit of Steaua Bucharest becomes a dead rubber with a positive result tonight.

“This is a period I like, where the squad can play a role, not just the team,” he said.

“It is a period where only the brave can survive because it is hard, with the Christmas period where the accumulation of matches is so high. You don’t do it as a normal team, you do it as a special group with a special mentality. I missed it when I was in Italy and Spain.

“We have nine matches in December and one is the match against Steaua so instead of nine matches, if we can finish the job it will be eight competitive matches and that is our motivation.”

Central defender David Luiz did not travel with the squad yesterday due to a knee injury.

However, striker Fernando Torres is ready to return after three matches out with an adductor problem and Mourinho hopes he can resume the form that saw him score three goals in as many games before injury struck.

“Torres is ready,” added Mourinho. “He was almost ready to play against West Ham but we decided not to take a risk because we have nine matches in December and to lose a player now is not good. “