Mourinho battles to repair Chelsea's misfiring forwards
By Alec Kennedy ,AFP
February 22, 2014, 12:03 am TWN
LONDON - Jose Mourinho will again confront Chelsea's striker dilemma when the leaders return to Premier League action against Everton at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
With Chelsea not in action in midweek, Mourinho has had plenty of time to reflect on last weekend's FA Cup defeat at Manchester City.
City eased to a 2-0 victory, gaining revenge for the Blues' recent league victory at Eastlands and for Mourinho, the game threw his limited forward options into sharp relief.
Samuel Eto'o started the match but was replaced at half time by Mohamed Salah, while Fernando Torres continued his comeback from a knee injury with a second successive substitute appearance.
Demba Ba has been out of favor with Mourinho of late and between them, Chelsea's three main strikers have scored just 11 Premier League goals this season.
That has not prevented Mourinho's side rising to the top of the table and a victory over Roberto Martinez's Everton side will ensure they remain ahead of title rivals Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool.
But the Chelsea manager highlighted the impact made by Stevan Jovetic in City's cup victory, pointing out the Montenegro international is his side's fourth choice forward.
Mourinho maintained throughout the January transfer window the club would not seek a quick-fix to strengthen the squad, insisting that a move for a top class striker would wait until the close-season.
But speaking after the City match, he indicated his growing frustration at the lack of goals from his forwards.
“There are things I cannot say. There are things I can just think and keep to myself,” he said.
“I don't want to individualize to speak about my striker or my keeper or my left-back. We are a team, we win, we lose.”
Chelsea's challenge has been maintained by the goal contribution from the side's attacking midfielders, in particular leading scorer Eden Hazard who has struck 12 times in the league.
Ba remains hopeful of a recall and is clear that a second successive defeat would come as a major blow as the season enters its final stages.
“We lost the last game in the FA Cup and we don't want to lose two in a row. That would be bad,” he said.
“We are just going to do everything on Saturday because it's important to get back to winning ways, it's important for the title race and it's important for our confidence.”
Everton manager Martinez will be without on-loan Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku, who is ineligible against his parent club, but the Belgium international has recovered from his ankle injury.
Bryan Oviedo, Darron Gibson and Arouna Kone, who are all out long-term, are the only Everton absentees for the trip to London, which Martinez believes will provided a significant indication about where his team can end up this season.
Everton pulled off an impressive win at Manchester United and have also drawn at Arsenal in a campaign that has seen them look close to pushing for a Champions League spot, with Martinez believing his side have shown they can be rewarded for a more positive approach on their travels.
They have the chance to close the gap to fourth-placed Liverpool, who face Swansea on Sunday, to five points when they travel to Stamford Bridge.
“It's good to have aspirations but important we take it step by step and Chelsea game will tell us a lot,” Martinez said.
“Only when you get in a match day experience against teams in the Champions League will we get an idea of how far we have come.
“Stamford Bridge one of the toughest places to go and will be a terrific measurement of ourselves. We need to aim high.”