Manager Jose Mourinho paid tribute to Côte d’Ivoire striker Didier Drogba on the eve of Chelsea’s Champions League quarterfinal second leg in Valencia.
”He’s more than a goalscorer, he’s the kind of player who even if he doesn’t score still makes an important contribution,” Mourinho told a news conference on Monday.
”His work rate is unbelievable. He’s the kind of player I have to play every game … so there’s no rest for the boy. He’s been magnificent all season.”
Drogba scored Chelsea’s equaliser in last week’s 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, taking his tally for the season to 30 goals, and also played in the 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend.
Mourinho said he could not follow Valencia coach Quique Sanchez Flores’s example by giving his leading striker a break.
”Quique rested nearly all of his team at the weekend and I couldn’t afford to do that,” said the Portuguese coach. ”That’s the difference between a team trying to win just the Champions League and a team trying to win everything.
”We are [also] second in the Premier League and in the semifinals of the FA Cup.”
Mourinho hoped Ghana midfielder Michael Essien could return after a knee injury.
”I want one last look. I asked him yesterday if he was on holiday or wanted to play and he told me he wanted to play,” said the coach. ”I hope I’m happy with the training session as I’d like to play him.”
Like Sanchez Flores, Mourinho said Tuesday’s game was likely to be decided by the smallest of details.
”The game is only over when the referee tells us to go home. We have to fight until the last minute … maybe the last minute will be crucial, maybe we’ll need to score then or maybe we’ll need to defend.”
Valencia have met English opposition on 11 occasions in Europe at the Mestalla and never lost.
But full back Ashley Cole, who got to the final with Arsenal last year, said Chelsea were sure they could break the hoodoo.
”We are confident we can score the two goals we need and keep a clean sheet,” said Cole.
”It takes a lot of guts, determination and good players to get here. I’ve been in the final before and hopefully I can get there again.” – Reuters