Jose Mourinho believes Chelsea are being shown a lack of respect for their European dream as he considers selecting an alternate team for Sunday’s clash with Premier League leaders Liverpool.
The Blues are five points adrift of Liverpool with three games to play. Coupled with the fact that goalkeeper Petr Cech (shoulder), captain John Terry (ankle), playmaker Eden Hazard (calf) and striker Samuel Eto’o (knee) are all injured and the proximity to next Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid, it has left Mourinho pondering wholesale changes at Anfield.
It might take the gloss off a potentially decisive fixture in the title race and anger third-placed Manchester City, but the Portuguese is aggrieved Chelsea’s fixture has not been moved to give the Blues the best possible chance in Europe and insists he has the fans’ support.
"I have to defend my club and I have to defend Chelsea supporters," Mourinho said.
"If we are not helped to try to follow our dreams and our objectives, (it is) one more reason for us to close (ranks), to try to think about us and only about us.
"I think Chelsea fans would like Chelsea Football Club to be respected and to get the respect Chelsea Football Club deserves.
"They know what Chelsea did, not just for Chelsea Football Club, but also for English football.
"In the last 10 years, Chelsea was the most important club in this country, defending this country in European competitions.
"It’s the last club to be European champion, it’s the last club to win the Europa League, it’s the club with the record of presence in semi-finals and Chelsea fans think Chelsea deserves more respect than Chelsea is getting."
Mourinho appears to have been evoking something of a siege mentality in recent weeks.
Prior to the pre-match media conference Chelsea made it clear his Football Association charge for criticising officials after last week’s loss to Sunderland would not be discussed, nor would the Blues boss comment on charges levelled at his assistant Rui Faria.
Both have until 6pm on Monday to respond.
"Every time I speak there is a consequence," Mourinho added. "Even if I say that a referee was amazing that was a reason to be with a charge.
"I can’t say the truth. I don’t feel free at all. If you want a better press conference, speak with the FA."
Mourinho floated the prospect of wholesale changes after Tuesday’s first-leg draw at Atletico and suggested he would put his thoughts to the Chelsea hierarchy.
Chelsea are unlikely to be punished by the Premier League for making numerous changes as clubs can select any player in their 25-man squad list without fear of sanction.
Mourinho declined to reveal the content of discussions and whether he will go ahead and field a different starting XI, but the reality is the matchday squad will likely include Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel (both suspended in Europe), Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah (both ineligible for Europe).
Perhaps the greatest quandary is in goal, where Hilario could make a first appearance in more than three years for fear of injury to Cech’s replacement Mark Schwarzer.
Along with the injuries, Brazil midfielder Ramires is banned for four matches for striking Sebastian Larsson in last weekend’s loss to Sunderland.
"You wait for Sunday and Sunday you know our team," Mourinho added.
"We are going to try to win. That’s the simple and objective answer. Nobody goes to a game to lose."
Mourinho declined to comment on Liverpool or their manager Brendan Rodgers, who worked under the Portuguese during his first spell at Stamford Bridge before embarking on his own career as a manager.
His message was clear and he believes Spanish footballing authorities are more accommodating of clubs’ European ambitions and it is only because Atletico play Valencia this weekend that their match is on Sunday.
"The last weekend they played on the Friday and we played on the Saturday," Mourinho said.
"They play Sunday, luckily for us, they play against Valencia and Valencia played yesterday in the Europa League (against Sevilla) and Valencia cannot play on the Saturday.
"Instead of Valencia, if they played another team they would be playing today and they would have 48 hours more than us to rest."
Mourinho suggested Chelsea would accommodate another club’s wishes if their future opposition is in the same position in future.
"Next season if another club is in a Champions League semi-final, maybe we change that," Mourinho added.
Chelsea are bidding for a third European final in three years after winning the Champions League and Europa League in successive seasons.
Terry and Hazard have a slim chance of being fit for the second leg with Atletico.
On Terry, Mourinho said: "(He) doesn’t make this weekend and I don’t think he can make next week, but let’s wait."