Vol. 5 Num 1137 Fri. August 10, 2007  

Barclays English Premier League
Team spirit pleases Jose

Jose Mourinho believes the team spirit he has forged at Chelsea is strong enough to see his side through the injury crisis that threatens to damage their title challenge.

Mourinho could be forgiven if he had given up taking a roll call of his remaining fit players in case another one has joined the growing ranks of walking wounded.

Such a lengthy injury list would have shattered morale at most clubs, but Mourinho's demand that the team's needs come above all else has rubbed off on every player who works for him.

As a result, the Stamford Bridge changing room has plenty of strong personalities who will pull together during this testing period.

Which is just as well because only 12 players were available to train on Wednesday. Crucially, Mourinho will be without John Terry for at least a month, while Didier Drogba faces two weeks on the sidelines.

The loss of those two talismanic stars, along with injuries to Michael Ballack, Paulo Ferreira, Wayne Bridge, Claude Makelele, Salomon Kalou and Andriy Shevchenko has left Mourinho struggling to even name a squad of 16 players for Sunday's Premiership opener against Birmingham.

But the Portuguese coach is confident Chelsea's unified spirit will help them get off to a good start as they try to regain the Premiership crown.

"The players are adapting well," Mourinho told Chelsea TV. "The club are happy with the players. The players are happy with the club.

"They want to stay and I think this is a very happy and friendly group with a lot of quality in football aspects, but also a happy family and I think we can dream of good things because the group is fantastic.

"Everybody is intelligent enough to understand that we play around 60 matches a season and no one plays 60 matches.

"If you are not first-choice at the beginning of the season you know that, step by step, you will get matches."

Despite having so many absences, Mourinho is tempted by the prospect of a 20 million pounds fee for Arjen Robben.

Real Madrid are willing to pay that much for the Dutch winger and Mourinho would willingly trade an injury-plagued player for Sevilla's Daniel Alves, who he is trying to bring to London for a similar price.

If that deal goes through, Mourinho will finally have found a solution to the right-back position that was his side's Achilles heel for long periods last season.

Assuming he can eventually get his first choice team onto the pitch, Mourinho will expect to push Manchester United much harder this season.

Through the second half of last season, the feeling persisted that Sir Alex Ferguson's team had a momentum that Chelsea, distracted by in fighting between Mourinho and Roman Abramovich, were unequipped to halt.

But with that feud apparently settled, Chelsea will be United's most potent challengers again.

They proved in the Community Shield that even without so many players they could match United and Steve Sidwell, one of Mourinho's close-season signings, is certain there is no lack of desire to dethrone United.

"Other clubs are obviously going to think it is a good time to play Chelsea but what they have got to remember is the players who are going to be playing are going to want to make a mark on the manager's selection for the next game," Sidwell said.

"What I have seen in pre-season is the hunger for success, the hunger to get this title back.

"Chelsea are victims of their own success. We have been successful over the last few years and with that you get a lot of negativity. But we know what we want and what we have got."