LONDON (AP) How Jose Mourinho must long for the days last season when Chelsea was being goaded for being ”boring.” The start to the new campaign has been anything but mundane at Stamford Bridge.
Tumult has replaced apparent tranquility after losing the Community Shield to Arsenal and starting the Premier League title defense with a draw to Swansea.
A victory over Manchester City on Sunday, though, would quickly transform the mood surrounding the champions.
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Perhaps that is why Mourinho has shielded his players from criticism even though goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois will miss the trip to Manchester after being sent off against Swansea, with new signing Asmir Begovic taking his place.
Instead, it’s the Chelsea medical staff in Mourinho’s firing line. By publicly criticizing his medical staff and removing doctor Eva Carneiro from her match-day role, Mourinho has generated a new wave of damaging headlines for the club.
FIFA medical chief Jiri Dvorak became the latest expert to express disapproval of Mourinho on Thursday.
The Chelsea medical team, including Carneiro, was decried by Mourinho for being too eager to race onto the field on Saturday to treat Eden Hazard, which left the team briefly with only nine men as it chased a winner.
”Everyone involved has to respect the fact the doctor is in charge,” Dvorak told Sky Sports television. ”When they were asked (by the referee) they had to come on to the pitch.”
The draw was in part due to Mourinho’s failure to strengthen the squad, with only a couple of weeks remaining in the summer transfer window.
First-choice striker Diego Costa is not fully fit and new back-up Radamel Falcao has much to prove after a lackluster season at Manchester United. Mourinho wants to strengthen a defense that was exposed against Swansea with the addition of John Stones but Everton is rebuffing Chelsea’s pursuit of the center back.
Manchester City, meanwhile, faces Chelsea on a high after starting its quest to regain the trophy from the London club with a victory at West Bromwich Albion.
Unlike Chelsea, City made a high-profile addition to its squad by signing Raheem Sterling from Liverpool for 49 million ($76 million).
”It’s going to be a really tough season,” Sterling said. ”With it being our first home game of the season, we want to get off on the right foot.”
Here are a look at the other talking points this weekend in the Premier League:
There’s an early opening to the second round of Premier League with Manchester United facing Aston Villa on Friday night.
Although Friday night games will feature more regularly from next season, this is a one-off due to a march by the far-right English Defence League group in the Birmingham area on Saturday and United being unable to play the following day due to its Champions League playoff against Bruges on Tuesday.
David de Gea was dropped from United’s opening-day win over Tottenham and the goalkeeper will be left out of the team again.
Manager Louis van Gaal believes the Spaniard is not in the right frame of mind as he continues to be linked with a move to Real Madrid. Van Gaal also claimed De Gea told United’s goalkeeping coach that he did not want to play in the Tottenham game.
”Frans Hoek, he has a meeting with David de Gea and he asks him, `Do you want to play?”’ recalled Van Gaal, who said the goalkeeper’s answer was ”No.”
Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero will instead seek another clean sheet at the start of his United career on Sunday.
CECH IN SPOTLIGHT
The pre-season optimism at Arsenal was quickly deflated by losing to West Ham at the start of its search for a first league title since 2004. There’s another London derby for Arsenal on Sunday against Crystal Palace and goalkeeper Petr Cech will want to avoid a repeat of the mistakes that contributed to 2-0 collapse to West Ham.
Everton and England will be without Leighton Baines for 12 to 14 weeks after he underwent ankle surgery. The defender was injured in training on the eve of the new season.
The promoted teams failed to win on the opening weekend, with Watford the only one to avoid defeat by drawing at Everton. Watford hosts West Brom on Saturday when Norwich travels to Sunderland. Bournemouth is at Liverpool in the Monday night game.