Jose unbowed after slip-up against Reading

December 27, 2006

Jose Mourinho is confident Chelsea will remain in touch with Manchester United as the Blues boss faces up to the greatest challenge of his Stamford Bridge reign.

Mourinho claims survival in the Premiership title race is the only objective as the Blues continue their hectic Christmas schedule without the injured John Terry, Petr Cech, Joe Cole and Arjen Robben.

The loss of Terry, who will find out this week if he requires surgery on his recurring back problem, has hit the hardest, with Chelsea conceding seven goals in four games without their captain.

Manchester United have opened up a four-point lead at the Premiership summit and, while Mourinho is unconcerned by the deficit, he admits the priority is to limp through until the break for FA Cup action on January 6.

'Right now, we are surviving because the distance to Manchester United is four points and that is not a drama,' he said.

'I keep saying three points can be solved when we play United. But we are in a difficult situation, although I think we can survive.

'We have games against Fulham and Aston Villa next. They are two difficult Premiership matches but, after that, we have a period when we play the FA Cup.

'The FA Cup is not our priority. If we get players back in two or three weeks then it will not be a drama. We need maximum points against Fulham and Villa.'

Robben suffered an unknown injury in training and will be out until the new year, while Cole, who has a fractured foot, may require surgery.

It was not all bad news, however, with Cech scheduled to return in January, a month earlier than expected, after a remarkably speedy recovery from the fractured skull sustained against Reading in October.

Centre-back Ricardo Carvalho and stand-in keeper Henrique Hilario have been showered with praise from their manager in recent games but Mourinho knows Chelsea have suffered without defensive rocks Terry and Cech.

'For me, the biggest problem is to lose more than one player. If we lose one player in one position, we can still do it,' he said.

'For example, if we lose Joe Cole or Arjen Robben, we have cover. To lose two or three at the same time in one position makes life difficult.

'At the moment, we are conceding too many goals. We are doing what we can. We have two good left backs and two good right backs and we are using them well.

'Ricardo is playing absolutely brilliantly in defence. Since John has been out, Ricardo has been fantastic.

'Paulo Ferreira is not a central defender - he is a right back - but for me he did positive work against Reading even though he was played out of position.

'This is a difficult period because we don't have the players to improve things, rotate and put pressure on other players. But it's not a drama.

'We're in the (last) 16 of the Champions League, semi-finals of the Carling Cup, we start the FA Cup next month and in the Premiership we are four points behind the leaders with 18 matches to play.

'On top of that, Manchester United must come to Stamford Bridge. I think the situation is okay. We'll just have to use this group of players.'