Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho says early FA Cup exit not a blessing for Champions League



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PARIS — Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho has scoffed at suggestions that going out of the FA Cup early helped his players by keeping them fresh for Tuesday's Champions League match against Paris Saint-Germain.

While injury-ravaged PSG played two matches in four days last week, Chelsea's players had a full week off because the club was not involved in this past weekend's FA Cup matches, having been eliminated by Bradford.

"It's never a blessing to be knocked out of any competition," Mourinho said at a news conference Monday. "It's always a problem and never a solution."

PSG lost four players through injury in Saturday's 2-2 draw against Caen, prompting questions whether Laurent Blanc's team is paying the price for fatigue.

Blanc had previously commented about Chelsea's surprise FA Cup loss, saying "Jose Mourinho is a genius. He lost the game against Bradford and gave himself an extra week to prepare the Champions League game against us."

But Mourinho thinks PSG has no cause for complaint because French clubs enjoy a two-week winter break.

"The last person you should speak to about accumulation of matches is a manager from an English club," he said. "When the French players were on holiday (over) Christmas we were playing five matches in 10 days, so don't talk to me about accumulation of matches and fatigue."

Mourinho said Diego Costa will return to the Chelsea attack after serving a three-game suspension.

"I don't think it's good for a player to be three matches without starting a game," Mourinho said. "I don't think he's in the best condition."

Chelsea knocked PSG out of the Champions League in the quarterfinals last season, losing the first leg 3-1 at Parc des Princes and going through to the semifinals thanks to a last-gasp goal in a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge.

"I'm not saying we won because we were better than Paris, we won because we scored a goal away and we didn't concede at home," Mourinho said.

Mourinho does not consider Chelsea — the Premier League leader — to be the favorite despite PSG's injuries and the fact it is only in second place in the French league.

He argues that PSG has "the same players as last year" and so should benefit from greater stability than his re-vamped Chelsea side. Mourinho bought Costa and midfielder Cesc Fabregas in the offseason and acquired attacking midfielder Juan Cuadrado last month.

"Chelsea's a different team, we have some different players. We changed the profile and the identity of our game," Mourinho said. "I think Parc des Princes will see a different Chelsea from last season."

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