JOSE Mourinho will always have a place in the hearts of Chelsea’s faithful but his former charges are hoping to make him suffer when he returns to Stamford Bridge as manager of Manchester United on Sunday (6pm).
Two days before being sacked in December a doomed Mourinho spoke of a “betrayal” of his work by some of the players who had propelled Chelsea to the Premier League title the previous season.
Fingers were pointed at Diego Costa, among others, and the Spain striker’s huge dip in form was a contributing factor to the Portuguese tactician’s bitter exit.
Costa has started this season like the marauding forward Mourinho signed from Atletico Madrid, scoring seven goals in eight Premier League games, and he will be relishing the highly-charged atmosphere expected on Sunday.
The visit to Stamford Bridge could hardly have come at a worse time for a United side who have won only one of their last five Premier League games to stall what had been a promising beginning to the Mourinho reign.
Fifth-placed Chelsea have also had a whole week to prepare following their demolition of champions Leicester City last weekend while United have been working overtime.
Mourinho’s new team drew 0-0 at Liverpool on Monday night and beat Turkish club Fenerbahce 4-1 in the Europa League on Thursday, before fully focusing on the visit to west London.
No wonder Mourinho, whose side are seventh in the table, said it was a time for digging in.
“This is not the week where we were expecting to close the distances to the top of the league. This is the week we have to keep contact with them,” he told the club’s website (www.manutd.com).
“Then we will arrive at the moment where we win three, four or five matches in a row and we will be there fighting with almost everybody for the title.”
It is not the first time Mourinho, who won two Premier League titles for Chelsea before his first sacking in 2007, will sit in the away dugout at Stamford Bridge.
He masterminded a 1-0 win for Inter Milan over Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea in 2010 on the way to winning the Champions League.
Former Italy coach Antonio Conte, the man now sitting in Mourinho’s old office, has made a steady enough start and the victory over Leicester was the ideal confidence-booster after defeats by Liverpool and Arsenal had lowered expectations.
North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal have the chance to leapfrog leaders Manchester City on Saturday.
Tottenham will go top if they win at Bournemouth in Saturday’s early kick-off (2.30pm) although Arsenal can respond later at home to Middlesbrough (5pm).
City host Southampton on Sunday, desperate to recover from their 4-0 mauling at the hands of Barcelona on Wednesday night.
That made it four games without a victory after 10 wins to start the season, and if Southampton get a point against them, that’ll be a low manager Pep Guardiola hasn’t hit for seven years.