Jose Mourinho’s erratic Chelsea team tackle Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine on Tuesday knowing defeat would seriously complicate their chances of progressing from Champions League Group G.
Chelsea eased some of the pressure on Mourinho by beating Aston Villa 2-0 in the Premier League on Saturday, but go into Tuesday’s game on the back of a 2-1 defeat at his former club Porto in their previous group match.
The English champions have never previously lost consecutive group games, but ahead of a sapping run of six matches in 19 days, Mourinho knows how damaging another defeat could prove.
“Obviously you don’t need to lose and lose and lose, because then psychological issues are coming into the game,” said the Portuguese, whose side trail Dynamo and Porto by a point after two matches.
“In normal conditions, getting normal results — I’m not even saying win, win, win, win, but getting normal results: wins, draws, the odd defeat — then it’s a great month.”
The victory over Villa saw Chelsea bounce back from a 3-1 home defeat by Southampton in their previous game, but they remain 10 points off the pace in the Premier League.
Seeking to shake Chelsea from their recent torpor, Mourinho dropped Eden Hazard, last season’s stand-out player, as well as Gary Cahill and Nemanja Matic, and saw Diego Costa score on his return from a domestic ban.
Hazard eventually joined the fray in the 83rd minute, but Mourinho said that the Belgian winger can expect to remain on the bench until he demonstrates a willingness to up his defensive contribution.
With Branislav Ivanovic sidelined by a hamstring injury, Mourinho must decide whether to persevere with a reconfigured back line that saw Cesar Azpilicueta start at right-back against Villa, with close-season signing Baba Rahman on the opposite flank.
Dynamo have had an extra day to prepare for the game at the Olympic Stadium, having had their most recent Ukrainian Premier League fixture moved forward to Friday, but Mourinho believes his side can compensate in other areas.
– Yarmolenko interest –
“In this moment we are losing 24 hours to Dynamo, like we did against Porto,” he told Chelsea TV ahead of the teams’ first ever meeting.
“Porto played Friday, Dynamo played Friday. We played in Newcastle on Saturday (prior to playing Porto), we played again on Saturday.
“We are losing 24 hours. We have to try to recover that with other ingredients and the ingredients will be the same — fantastic spirit. Let’s start from that point.”
Dynamo’s rearranged fixture may have helped them prepare for Chelsea, but it proved a forgettable experience as they lost 3-0 at home to Shakhtar Donetsk, who knocked them off the league summit in the process.
It was their first league defeat in 39 matches, but Sergei Rebrov’s men can take heart from a record of only one loss in 10 European home games — a series that included a 5-2 thrashing of Everton in last season’s Europa League.
Mourinho reportedly scouted Dynamo winger Andriy Yarmolenko during Ukraine’s 1-0 loss to Spain in Euro 2016 qualifying last Monday, having been caught on camera semi-disguised beneath a grey hood.
Yarmolenko, 25, subsequently reaffirmed his commitment to Dynamo by signing a new five-year contract, but he remains open to the idea of playing overseas.
“I still want that (to play abroad). I know that if Dynamo get really worthy offers, we’ll find an option that satisfies everyone,” said Yarmolenko, who scored in last month’s 2-0 win at Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“I want the club to get good compensation for me. I could have left for free in a while, but that would have been wrong.
“I am 100 percent a Dynamo player. Our team is like my second family. That’s why I keep doing my best to benefit the club.”