Fringe players let Mourinho down on embarrassing day for Chelsea

In the end, you have to wonder whether all the talk of a quadruple spooked Jose Mourinho.

In his Friday press conference, the Chelsea boss mused about it being “almost impossible” to win four trophies in a single season because of the extra workload it would bring towards the end of the campaign. It seems he may have been thinking about it a bit too much.

It seems he had convinced himself so much about the problems that might lay ahead, he chose to take an almighty gamble with his starting line up by fielding a virtual second XI.

There was nothing wrong with the individual quality he could call upon. Ramires, Loic Remy, Mo Salah, Kurt Zouma. These are hardly no hopers.

But they are not first-team regulars and perhaps not fine-tuned to the pace and energy required. Filtering in one or two new names would have been perhaps the best policy, but Mourinho wanted to make sure he rested a raft of regulars.

Of course, at half-time, nobody was thinking the Chelsea boss had got it horribly wrong by making nine changes from the side that played at Liverpool in midweek in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final.

His team were cruising at 2-0 and with the second leg just a couple of days away, it seemed to have been the perfect call. But the goal conceded just before the break – a fine arrowing strike from Jon Stead – changed the dynamics of the contest.

Bradford's fightback stunned the home side at Stamford Bridge
Bradford’s fightback stunned the home side at Stamford Bridge

At the start of the second half, you could sense the League One outfit felt they were still in the contest. They came out for the restart several minutes before the Blues emerged from the tunnel and were immediately on the front foot – prepared to risk throwing players forward in a death or glory bid.

The game drifted into something of a lull, but with Chelsea simply not putting the game to bed, the away side kept believing and got their reward with an equaliser 15 minutes from time.

It created a maelstrom of panic in the home side, who would hardly have fancied the burden of a replay up at Valley Parade and yet another fixture to fulfil. Mourinho threw on Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard, wanting closure.

Instead, it was Bradford who sealed the deal with goals in breakaways – causing pandemonium among Bantams fans at the Shed End.

Did he really have to make as many changes as he did – removing Costa, Matic, Fabregas, Courtois, Hazard, Willian and Ivanovic from the firing line?

“The team I select is more than normal,” Mourinho insisted. “We are not talking about a team of kids. I think the selection was more than good enough. The players should win this game easily.

“Are there any Bradford players who could play for Chelsea? No.”

But he agreed it was his worst result as manager, and ‘a disgrace’ for his team, even though he was dignified enough to give Bradford their dues.

“I feel happy for them,” he said of Bradford. “In my bad feelings about the game, I could feel space to feel happy for them but I also feel ashamed and the players should feel the same.”

This result was a body-blow, make no mistake. An almost immaculate home record has been blown out of the water and those first goals conceded at the Bridge in five games will cast a little doubt that was not there before.

Not so much about the direction of the team this season, because they are still the team to beat, but about the degree of rotation that Mourinho can afford if he wants to maintain the quality that has taken the Blues so far already this season.

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