Chelsea give José Mourinho permission to rest key names at Liverpool

José Mourinho is placing more emphasis on next week's Champions League semi-final second leg against Atlético. Photograph: Jean Cat...

José Mourinho is placing more emphasis on next week's Champions League semi-final second leg against Atlético. Photograph: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images
The Chelsea hierarchy have given José Mourinho the green light to field a team at Liverpool on Sunday that reflects the club's priority as being the Champions League semi-final against Atlético Madrid three days later. Yet the go-ahead may have only briefly brightened the manager's mood after he was one of three members of staff charged by the Football Association over events during the damaging home defeat to Sunderland.
Mourinho, who is still in the process of appealing against an £8,000 fine after being sent to the stands for the second time this season for re-entering the playing surface at Aston Villa last month, had offered a sarcastic appraisal of the performances of the referee, Mike Dean, and the general manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited, Mike Riley, after the 2-1 defeat to Sunderland that has left his team outsiders in the title race. His claim that the former had put in an "unbelievable" performance has prompted a charge of improper conduct, with the FA arguing he had questioned the integrity of both figures.
He and his assistant, Rui Faria, have until Monday to respond with the latter charged with two counts of improper conduct to risk a touchline or even a stadium ban given the perceived seriousness of his offences. The midfielder Ramires is likely to be absent for the rest of the domestic campaign after the FA charged him retrospectively with violent conduct. The Brazilian had flung his arm into Seb Larsson's face three minutes before the interval, an incident that apparently went unnoticed by Dean, with the midfielder now facing a four-match ban given it would constitute his second domestic dismissal of term.
He has until Thursday to respond but would not have featured at Liverpool regardless as Mourinho makes the Champions League the priority in his selection, with his team to be comprised largely of players ineligible in midweek. Mourinho has been vociferous in his complaints about the scheduling of key domestic fixtures around European ties this season and reiterated his dissatisfaction after Tuesday's goalless draw in Madrid, claiming to be baffled as to why the match at Anfield could not be played on Friday or Saturday to assist the last English club involved in European competition.
Chelsea are second in the Premier League but, should they win at Anfield, it would effectively hand third-placed Manchester City a route back into the title race, given Manuel Pellegrini's side will have games in hand on those above them. Mourinho had indicated he had "to listen to the club" but stressed his team were representing "English football", "so I would play the players who are not going to play on Wednesday" against Liverpool.
Those plans were discussed with the chief executive, Ron Gourlay, and the sporting director, Michael Emenalo, en route back from Madrid with the pair, together with the chairman Bruce Buck, relaying the manager's plans to Roman Abramovich at a board meeting on Wednesday. It is understood the owner is content with the manager's thinking, with Mourinho's selection to reflect the midweek game ahead. Chelsea lost Petr Cech and John Terry to shoulder and ankle injuries at the Vicente Calderón, but while the lineup who will confront the leaders will not be first-choice, they could not be dismissed as "weakened".
Frank Lampard and Mikel John Obi, who are suspended in Europe after picking up their third bookings of the competition, are expected to start along with the cup-tied Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah. Branislav Ivanovic, who was banned in Spain, is likely to partner Gary Cahill in central defence in anticipation of playing there against Atlético, while Ashley Cole should begin his first Premier League game since 11 January. Arguably the only youngster who may feature would be Tomas Kalas, 20, who could fill in at right-back, though the young Czech has been a regular in the senior setup this season.
The Premier League is unconcerned at the prospect of Mourinho's selection, as long as the majority of the players who take to the field are members of Chelsea's 25-man squad.
Faria will be on the touchline at Anfield, though the Portuguese's furious reaction to the award of the decisive penalty on Saturday has been deemed particularly serious by the FA. It is alleged he used abusive and/or insulting words towards the fourth official, Philip Dowd, and that his behaviour following the referee's request that he leave the technical area amounted to improper conduct.
"The FA has designated this as a non-standard case due to the aggressive and/or threatening and/or serious nature of the reported behaviour," confirmed the governing body, with the sanction to be determined by a three-man commission. Mourinho is likelier to face another fine rather than a ban given off-field offences generally prompt off-field sanctions. Chelsea are considering their responses to the three charges.


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