Jose Mourinho’s focus will switch back from the transfer market to Chelsea’s bid for silverware when Stoke visit Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday.
Events at the west London club have been dominated by a dramatic week of transfer negotiations following their Premier League victory over Manchester United last weekend.
Mourinho’s decision to sanction the £37 million sale of Spanish playmaker Juan Mata to United raised eyebrows, particularly from those Chelsea supporters disappointed to see the exit of the club’s player of the year for the last two seasons.
The Portuguese coach, though, insists the sale was triggered by a successful approach for Basel’s Egypt winger Mohamed Salah, who had appeared destined to join Liverpool before the Blues’ intervention.
Mourinho had claimed he did not expect Chelsea to be active in the January transfer market, but with Nemanja Matic having returned to the club in a £21 million move from Benfica, the former Real Madrid manager’s efforts to reshape his squad have progressed further than even he thought possible.
Those transfers should be completed imminently, but both will be put to one side when Mourinho’s team face a Stoke side who won 3-2 when the two sides met at the Britannia Stadium in the Premier League in December.
Then, Chelsea paid the price for building on a promising first half performance and Mourinho warned his team face a testing challenge against Mark Hughes’ side despite Stoke’s record of just one win in their last six games.
“We lost against this team and it was not a long time ago. They are a difficult team,” Mourinho said.
“Everybody knows who Stoke is: very physical, very direct, strong on set-pieces, they come here to compete. I expect a very difficult match.
“That’s why I’m going to play with a strong team. I’m not going to make big changes in the team, because we’re going to try and go as far as possible in the competition. We have to play with a very strong team.”
Fernando Torres is Chelsea’s only absentee after the Spanish striker picked up a knee injury against United.
“He’s the only one injured. He’ll be out for one month, three weeks, something like that,” Mourinho said.
“It’s not a surgery situation, gladly. But it’s not a little strain. It’s a lateral ligament injury and it’ll take, with this week, three weeks.”
Stoke manager Hughes insists there is no chance of him letting Peter Crouch leave in this window despite reported interest from QPR.
Hughes has brought in Manchester City forward John Guidetti on loan and is keen to add further to his striking options in the window, yet when queried on Friday if he would consider letting Crouch go, he replied: “No, it is not an option.”
However, Hughes admits the Potters attempts to bolster their attack during this window have been met with frustration
“There was a point where we thought there was a possibility of doing our business quite early, but that hasn’t panned out, and we have missed out on a number,” he said.
“We have probably been misled somewhat on others as well – in terms of the information we are getting and the plans for certain players.
“You have to shrug your shoulders and move on. It is about making sure at the end of the window, we are stronger than we were at the beginning.”
Hughes hopes his team can repeat their recent triumph over the Blues in the league and added: “They think they can win every game they play – we as Stoke have to be realistic and know we’re not at that level.
“We’ve done that against Chelsea, we’ve beaten them this season, it can be done and that’ll prey on their minds.”