Sunday 17 December 2017

Jose's ready to step back in time

Chelsea manager Mourinho returns to sprinkle his 'stardust' on Premier League

Chelsea defender David Luiz. Picture: Ruben Sprich/Reuters
Chelsea defender David Luiz. Picture: Ruben Sprich/Reuters

JOSE MOURINHO was today concluding preparations for his competitive return as Chelsea manager ahead of the opening weekend of the season – 2,164 days following his most recent match as a Premier League boss.

When Chelsea host Hull on Sunday, the self-proclaimed 'Special One' will grace the English top flight for the first time since a draw at home to Blackburn in September 2007.

Mourinho, who addresses the media this afternoon, returned to Stamford Bridge in March 2010, winning with Inter Milan, but is now back in the home dugout after signing a four-year contract in June.

He says he has mellowed and matured, but only time will tell if there will be any repetition of the tempestuous behaviour which punctuated his recent spell at Real Madrid.

Chelsea's pre-season has been productive – six wins in seven games in Asia and the United States – with Mourinho's return their greatest statement; one which means the Blues have been installed as title favourites by many before a ball is kicked this term.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore is among those pleased to see the Portuguese back.

Scudamore said. "Are we delighted to see Mourinho? Of course we are because he's a character, and a successful character, and a talking point. He's stardust."

Mourinho is twice a Premier League champion and the only European Cup-winning manager in England's top flight, something he was only too keen to point out.

He is content with his squad, with one sole transfer target remaining.

Chelsea have made three summer signings – Andre Schurrle, Marco van Ginkel and Mark Schwarzer – but Wayne Rooney remains elusive despite two bids, as Manchester United remain determined to hold on to the striker.

David Luiz, meanwhile, has been told he is going nowhere despite reported interest from Barcelona, with Mourinho not prepared to sell any member of his squad.

The midweek internationals could have some bearing on team selection for Sunday, Chelsea's first of three Premier League games in nine days.

Due to their involvement in the UEFA Super Cup on August 30, the Blues play Hull in a repeat of the 2009-10 season opener, on Wednesday at home to Aston Villa and away to Manchester United on August 26.

Assistant first-team coach Steve Holland said: "The full focus is on Hull, there is no thought of anything other than giving ourselves the best chance of getting three points from the first game.

"We're expecting a difficult opener. I remember being here in Carlo Ancelotti's first match four years ago, where we won the game late on.

"The teams that come up, when you play them early, they still have a feel-good factor from the season before, and are used to winning.

"They're full of confidence, have new players and have hope and excitement, so they can be dangerous and we'll have to be ready for sure."

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