Birmingham, United Kingdom // Willian has confirmed what many have long suspected in revealing that Jose Mourinho’s complaints about the treatment of Chelsea are a way to motivate his squad.
Chelsea manager Mourinho is set to break his self-imposed ban on speaking to the media ahead of Saturday’s visit to Aston Villa when the Blues will attempt to consolidate their five-point advantage at the head of the Premier League table.
Last weekend the Portuguese maintained his silence either side of the meeting with title rivals Manchester City.
His stance was triggered by the Football Association’s decision to retrospectively impose a three-match ban on Diego Costa for the forward’s stamp on Liverpool’s Emre Can that went unnoticed by match referee Michael Oliver during Chelsea’s League Cup semi-final victory.
Mourinho has repeatedly complained of a campaign against Chelsea this season, with his grievances stretching back to the opening game of the season when Costa was booked for diving at Burnley.
But midfielder Willian believes the manager’s stance is double-edged, and is partly directed at his players.
“Jose Mourinho talks with us a lot. I think he says these things, that there is an agenda against Chelsea, to protect us as a group,” the Brazil international said.
“He says it to motivate us and to show he is with us all the time. Sometimes he says things to the media to make us stronger.
“As we are top of the league, everyone wants to steal our position. That’s why he wants us to be aware of it and maintain our focus for the rest of the season,” Willian added.
Chelsea secured a 1-1 draw with Manchester City despite the absence of leading scorer Costa and Cesc Fabregas, who is sidelined with a hamstring problem.
The two players will again be missing at Villa Park but Chelsea’s squad will be strengthened by the arrival of Juan Cuadrado, who joined in a transfer deadline day switch from Fiorentina for a reported initial fee of £23.3 million ($34.9 million, 30.8 million euros) after Andre Schurrle left for Wolfsburg.
Willian accepted his own place would be threatened by Colombia winger Cuadrado but insisted he was ready for the challenge.
“It is true that with the arrival of Cuadrado, the competition in the squad is stronger,” said Willian.
“But I will always fight for my place. I will never feel comfortable otherwise someone will come and take my place.
“He (Cuadrado) is a good player. He did his first training session with us and fitted in well. We hope he can be happy with us here at Chelsea.”
Meanwhile Villa manager Paul Lambert said Christian Benteke’s dip in form had come at just the wrong time for his goal-shy side.
The Birmingham club are the lowest scorers in all four English professional divisions with just 11 league goals this term and were thrashed 5-0 by Arsenal last weekend.
Belgium striker Benteke has failed to score in his last six Premier League outings and has managed just two top-flight goals since recovering from an Achilles injury in October.
That setback saw him miss last year’s World Cup in Brazil and also potentially cost him a lucrative move to a bigger club.
“If I had Christian Benteke right on his game, performing when back from injury, I’m pretty sure I’d have a long list of clubs knocking down the door for him,” Lambert said.
“He’s had a dip in form, he’s human like everyone else. We can’t rest everything on his shoulders.
“We’re working hard to get him back to what we know he can do.
“You don’t have the talent he’s got and fall that far. Everyone has dips in form, it’s more noticeable in him,” the Scot added.
Villa central defenders Ron Vlaar and Philippe Senderos are set to miss Saturday’s match through injury but Scott Sinclair could make a first start since arriving on loan from Manchester City.
English Premier League fixtures (in UAE time)
Tottenham v Arsenal, 4.45pm
Aston Villa v Chelsea, 7pm
Leicester City v Crystal Palace, 7pm
Manchester City v Hull City, 7pm
QPR v Southampton, 7pm
Swansea v Sunderland, 7pm
Everton v Liverpool, 9.30pm
Burnley v West Brom, 4pm
Newcastle v Stoke City, 6.05pm
West Ham v Man United, 8.15pm
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