Mourinho excited by Clarke reunion
Jose Mourinho has praised former assistant Steve Clarke ahead of what he sees as a “difficult” match for Chelsea against West Brom this Saturday.
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Clarke was at Chelsea during Mourinho’s first stint in England and now takes his West Brom side to Stamford Bridge as the pair go head to head.
“I’m looking forward and very happy to meet him,” Mourinho said. “It’s not the same before and after the match against any other manager because he's a special guy in my career. He is very good, organises the team very well defensively. It’s very difficult to play against his teams because they defend very well.
“After that, counter-attack players and very direct movements on the counter. Always a difficult team. They stopped Arsenal [in a 1-1 draw] and won [2-1] at Old Trafford, so two big teams already. Steve's team [are] always difficult.”
Mourinho implied that Clarke was effectively managing many aspects of both Liverpool and West Ham United, the two clubs he worked at after Chelsea, because of the amount of work he took on.
“He had good experience with me but also in his playing career,” he said of the former Chelsea and Scotland defender. “Always very focused and organised. When he started thinking as a coach with me was important for him.
“After that [when he left] he was probably more than an assistant. For sure, he was more than an assistant. He was in control of training methodology and sessions, match preparations. He had very good experience as assistant manager. When he became manager for the first time, he was very well prepared so knew he would do very well. So I’m happy for that. He knows that every match he plays I'm with him and want him to win... except tomorrow.
“It happens a lot [that an assistant is really the primary manager], that managers like the assistant to do practical work. It's a profile of management. Not my case. When he was with me it was a different role but that changed when he was assisting others with different philosophies [Gianfranco Zola and Kenny Dalglish]. By complementing them he went to his first job as manager very well prepared.”
Ahead of the home game this Saturday, Mourinho confirmed that Fernando Torres is still out with an abductor-muscle injury but will likely be back “after the international break”.
Mourinho also feels that the team took the right lessons from the manager showing his “anger” for the first time after the 2-0 defeat to Newcastle United, and that they displayed it in the 3-0 victory over Schalke that followed.
He said: “For new ones, working with me for first time, it was maybe the first time they felt me, really. I don't want to be scary, just to influence their mentality and make them stronger, tougher, more professional and more ambition, not to hide under a couple of good results. Good results have to motivate you to get the next result. My objective is not to scare but make them strong. If they have the right mentality, like [against] Schalke, I will make them stronger.
“The reaction against Schalke was what I wanted. [We] had 15 minutes under fire, losing easy balls and giving them two scoring possibilities, so it was not the best start, but the reaction of the team was very good. When we lost the ball, [we had] 11 fighting to recover it, no more than five seconds after we lost it, rather than sitting back and waiting for it. When we got the ball, we were aggressive and fast, in the direction we'd been before when we were building the principles of our play. We weren't like that at Newcastle.
“They knew, they knew. The way we work, the way we speak. They know clearly what I want. The good thing is that was a reaction and coped with the defeat. If we lose twice it's hard, as happened against Everton and Basel, when we were scared against Fulham. The ball like fire at our feet. This time we lost, recovered well, put ourselves in good position in the Champions League. This result and performance, not spectacular but solid, comes at the right moment.”
However, Clarke remains hopeful that his side can inflict defeat on Chelsea, despite West Brom never having won at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League era.
The Baggies boss said: “It’s unusual for teams challenging for the title to lose back-to-back Premier League games. That adds to our challenge.
“West Bromwich Albion has never won there in the league so it’s a challenge for us and something we will try to put right. We will look at videos and try to put out a team that will exploit any weaknesses they have.
“They still look very hard to beat. You have to work hard for any win in this league. For us to do well we have to work hard at our game and make sure we’re 100 percent right.”
Clarke remains friends with Mourinho, and the fact he spent 11 years at Chelsea as a player only adds to the significance, while the Scot’s son will be at the stadium supporting Mourinho's men.
However, he said: “This isn’t about that. Jose just happens to be in the opposition dugout. Chelsea was a big part of my life but I am being selfish -- this weekend is about West Bromwich Albion for me.
“I want to prepare my team and I want to get a positive result for Albion. It won’t mean anything to me other than three points for Albion.”