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Blues re-focus ahead of Palace clash

16 October 2014, 09:00

London - In case they needed it, the short trip to Crystal Palace will re-focus Chelsea's globe-trotting players on matters at home as the Premier League slips back into gear this weekend after the second international break of the season.

Like most of their Premier League rivals, Chelsea's squad was scattered far and wide after their 2-0 home win over Arsenal on Oct. 5, a result that left them five points clear after six wins and a draw from their opening seven matches.

The leaders will need no reminding, however, that modest Palace will have scant regard for Chelsea's clear squad superiority come Saturday afternoon in south east London.

A 1-0 defeat at Palace in late March, when John Terry's own goal sealed their fate, put a serious dent in Chelsea's title ambitions last season and had Mourinho accusing some of his players of "disappearing" against certain low-key opponents.

Also Read: But where is this God of soccer?

It is unlikely to happen again, given the improvements Mourinho has made to his squad during the close-season and the clear hunger of his side to reclaim the Premier League trophy after an absence of four seasons.

Chelsea's German World Cup-winning forward Andre Schuerrle said Mourinho's unrelenting will to win is one of the driving forces behind their blistering early season form.

"To him, finishing second is a failure," the 23-year-old told Bild. "He doesn't know the word 'losing'. That's how he holds his talk before the matches. His thinking is impressive -- as impressive as the way he gets his message across.

"He challenges you to be robust on the pitch, to play like a man. To commit a foul. I feel much better since joining Chelsea and I have become much more confident."

Yet Mourinho would still have been anxious as he counted his players back in through the training ground gates this week.

He would have kept a particularly careful eye on Spain striker Diego Costa, whose nine league goals since signing from Atletico Madrid have fuelled Chelsea's flying start.

Despite concerns over his hamstring, Brazilian-born Costa played the full 90 minutes in Spain's surprise Euro 2016 qualifier loss to Slovakia and all but eight minutes in the win over Luxembourg when he scored his first goal for his adopted country.

Cesc Fabregas and Cesar Azpilicueta were also on Spain duty, Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois, who suffered a head injury against Arsenal, were with Belgium while Gary Cahill featured in England's wins over San Marino and Estonia.

Serbia's Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Matic both played in Serbia's flashpoint match against Albania in Belgrade that was abandoned after fighting broke out on Tuesday.

Palace, sitting in 15th place with eight points, have also seen their preparations for the Chelsea clash disrupted by international call-ups but striker Fraizer Campbell says a clash against Mourinho's side is the perfect motivation.

"When you're playing against the better teams, you need every man to perform," he said.

"It is a lot easier to get up for those type of games because they're the games that everyone wants to play in."

Like Mourinho, Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini would also have found himself kicking his heels since his side's last game, a 2-0 win at Aston Villa.

The champions, five points behind Chelsea in second place, return to action with a Saturday lunchtime kickoff at home to sixth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.

Before City's recent rise it was a fixture that filled their fans with dread.

Also Read: Cesc: Hazard like Messi

The tables have turned though and City have won the last four between the sides at the Etihad, including a 6-0 drubbing of the north London side last November.

City will likely be without midfielder Yaya Toure who was in action for the Ivory Coast on Wednesday night against Congo and will have precious little recovery time.

Sergio Aguero travelled to Hong Kong for Argentina's friendly but, unlike team mate Pablo Zabaleta, was rested.

Arsenal will hope to make up some lost ground with a home match against Hull City while third-placed Southampton, beaten by Tottenham before the international stoppage, have the chance to maintain their spot in the top four at home to Sunderland.

Fourth-placed Manchester United must wait until Monday for their away match at West Bromwich Albion while Liverpool have a Sunday lunchtime assignment at bottom club Queens Park Rangers.

- Reuters


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