• Premier League

Moody Mourinho clear to carry out threat

ESPN staff
April 24, 2014
ESPN FC: Mourinho the Boogey man?

Chelsea are unlikely to be punished by the Premier League if Jose Mourinho carries out his threat to field a weakened team at Liverpool on Sunday.

Mourinho wants to prioritise his side's Champions League semi-final second leg with Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday and has apparently been given the permission to do so by his club's board.

It is an approach that the Portuguese has previously railed against, criticising other teams when the spin-off of their team selection could have had an adverse effect on the prospects of his side.

Yet it is a sign of the times at Chelsea that Mourinho decided to make it publicly clear that he was prepared to challenge the spirit of fair play in England that he has championed so often.

Premier League rules, changed relatively recently, say clubs can select any player in their 25-man squad list without fear of sanction; action would likely only be taken if a large number of younger players from outside the list are selected.

There were few examples of clubs having been penalised before punishment of Blackpool in 2011 and Wolves in 2009 prompted a relaxation of the regulations but Mourinho's stance could be seen as significant in a season of friction with the game's authorities.

He has fallen foul of them repeatedly this season, being charged by the FA on three separate occasions. On Wednesday, Mourinho was charged with misconduct for his sarcastic "congratulatory" rant at referee Mike Dean and Mike Riley following his side's controversial Premier League defeat to Sunderland. Coach Rui Faria and midfielder Ramires were also charged by the FA for different offences.

Chelsea's manager was also sent to the stands at Aston Villa in March and Cardiff last October.

Mourinho was fined £8,000 each time by the FA for his behaviour but is appealing against the punishment for his antics at Villa.

Mourinho's combative nature, which saw him labelled an "enemy of football" by the head of UEFA's referees committee Volker Roth in 2005 after he criticised Anders Frisk, created friction between him and Chelsea in his first stint as manager of the club.

The Stamford Bridge hierarchy were unimpressed with the negative image his behaviour helped create for the club and it was a factor in his departure in 2007.

Mourinho claimed that he had become a calmer manager when he returned to Chelsea last summer but, with his team five points adrift of league leaders Liverpool with three games to play, he is risking another row if title contenders Manchester City complain about his team selection at Anfield.

Third-placed City could overhaul Liverpool if Chelsea win and they win their game in-hand and are monitoring the situation.

Chelsea, who insist they have quality throughout the squad, will be without goalkeeper Petr Cech (dislocated shoulder) for the remainder of the season and captain John Terry (ankle) for at least a week.

But Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel, Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah are among those likely to feature at Anfield. Lampard and Mikel are both suspended for the Atletico clash after picking up first-leg bookings, while January signings Matic and Salah are ineligible in Europe.

Reaching the Champions League final in Lisbon on May 24 against Real Madrid or Bayern Munich is now the key target for Mourinho, who failed to guide Madrid to glory last season, as he seeks to avoid a second season without silverware.

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