Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said Fernando Torres will be able to deal with the emotion of returning to face his boyhood club Atletico Madrid in the Blues first-leg Champions League semi-final tie on Tuesday, 22 April.
Torres, who played over 200 times for Atletico before joining Liverpool in 2007, hasn’t been left out from Mourinho’s fierce criticism of the striking options at his disposal this season.
Mourinho looked far from happy as he appeared before the press on Monday claiming the poor weather in the Spanish capital was the reason for his bad mood.
However, he reserved kind words for Torres who looks set to start as Samuel Eto’o failed to travel with the rest of the Chelsea squad due to a knee injury.
“The Champions League is a big motivation for every player,” he said.
“Everyone wants to play, the ones that play are happy, the ones I don’t choose are not so happy so everyone who starts the game will be full of motivation for sure. I am not saying that Fernando is going to start, but I am saying that he never hides.
“He is a real Atletico supporter, I would say a big one, but he is a professional so I have no doubts that the minutes he is on the pitch tomorrow he is going to try and do everything for Chelsea as the fantastic professional he is.”
The Londoners are likely to be in the unusual situation of having to beat one of their own players to progress to the final for the third time in six years as on-loan goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has been cleared to start for Atletico.
An agreement between the clubs had stipulated that Atletico would have to pay an extra fee to field the Belgian international, but UEFA ruled the clause ineligible to protect the integrity of the competition.
And Mourinho insinuated he was far from happy with European football’s governing body’s intervention.
“I think that when it comes to UEFA decisions you just accept them or, if you don’t accept them, you don’t make any comment. UEFA decide and I think managers don’t comment.”
Atletico boss Diego Simeone admitted earlier on Monday that the tie is likely to be decided by fine margins given the similar style employed by both sides.
Mourinho, however, refused to elaborate but did insist that Atletico’s position atop La Liga and in reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time in 40 years demands respect.
“It is not in my interest to speak about Atletico’s qualities. The only thing I can say is that I have watched them play many times.
“When we got them in the draw I watched them play with better eyes, I have studied them a lot and I try to make my players understand what Atletico is, but I have no interest in sharing with you my vision.
“I just repeat what I have said before, to reach a Champions League semi-final and to be fighting for a Spanish title you must be a very important team so we respect them.”