Updates from Thursday, April 24
Chelsea have told Jose Mourinho to press ahead with plans to field a weakened side against Liverpool, according to the Daily Mail's Neil Ashton:
Jose Mourinho has been given the go-ahead by Chelsea’s board to pick a second-string team at Liverpool on Sunday, after accepting that the club’s title hopes are over.
Mourinho is preparing to carry out his threat to save his remaining fit, first-choice players for the Champions League semi-final second leg at home to Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.
Chelsea’s football board, Dave Barnard, Bruce Buck, Ron Gourlay, Marina Granovskaia and Eugene Tenenbaum, all support Mourinho’s decision after meeting on Wednesday to discuss the situation.
Jose Mourinho has hinted heavily that he wants to field a second-string team when his Chelsea side take on Premier League title rivals Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.
Having lost John Terry and Petr Cech to injury in the Blues' 0-0 draw with Atletico Madrid in the Champions League semi-final first leg on Tuesday, reported by BBC Sport, the Portuguese made it clear he wishes to keep his best players fresh for the return leg at Stamford Bridge next week.
I can't decide by myself. I think that's a decision I have to listen the club. I'm just a piece, I'm just the manager and no more than that.
I have to listen to the club. I think the fact that the match is on Sunday I think puts the problem not in my hands.
We represent English football and we are the only English team that is European competition. Spain has four and gave them all the conditions to try to have success.
I know what I would do, but I'm not the club. I have to speak with the club. I would play with the players that are not going to play Wednesday.
Sunday's clash in Liverpool could go a long way in deciding the title, as the Reds currently sit five points clear of Chelsea at the top of the table with three games remaining.
A loss for Mourinho's side would make Premier League glory impossible, even if Liverpool went on to lose their last two games.
Additionally, defeat for Liverpool would put the title back in the hands of Manchester City.
However, after Cech left the field on Tuesday with a dislocated shoulder and Terry hobbled off with an ankle injury, Mourinho's squad has been hugely weakened, and he has clearly decided that the Champions League must be prioritised.
The goalless draw at the Vicente Calderon saw Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel pick up suspensions for Wednesday's return leg, meaning they will almost certainly feature on Sunday.
Mourinho's comments will be music to the ears of Brendan Rodgers and his Liverpool side as they look to claim a first league title since 1990.
However, The Guardian's Daniel Taylor feels Mourinho's comments could have been pre-orchestrated, particularly as he brought the club's hierarchy into it:
Very strange, and unusual, for Mourinho to bring Abramovich into it publicly. He's up to something. No idea what. But felt pre-planned.— Daniel Taylor (@DTguardian) April 23, 2014
Certainly it seems odd that Mourinho would so brazenly and obviously sacrifice the Premier League title, which Chelsea have not won since 2010.
It remains to be seen whether Mourinho will be true to his word, but many will complain that he has effectively handed Liverpool the trophy if he does indeed put out a weakened side.