Put on Christmas show, Mourinho tells Chelsea
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
AP PhotoChelsea manager Jose Mourinho wants his players to show the world why they are currently on top of the Premier League table when they host West Ham United on Dec. 26.
Monday night's 2-0 victory at Stoke City ensured that Chelsea would be the league leaders over Christmas and they will maintain that position with a positive result at home to their London rivals on Boxing Day.
Chelsea then travel to Southampton two days later and have a league clash with Tottenham Hotspur and an FA Cup third-round date with Watford on the horizon as well.
The other big leagues in Europe have all shut down for the festive season, but Mourinho is relishing his team's role as busy holiday entertainers.
"At this moment the German guys are on the beach, the Spanish guys are in the Maldives getting sun -- everybody else is doing that," he said.
"But in this country you play on the 22nd, you play on Boxing Day, you play on the 28th, you play on New Year's Day. There is no Christmas, just football, and I think the players deserve respect.
"The supporters all around the country give them that respect because every stadium is sold out. And the way to do it is with the kind of professionalism my players have shown."
Last season, West Ham defied the odds to hold out for a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge and they will be hopeful of at least repeating that result given that they are in fine form, sitting in fourth place in the table.
Chelsea are likely to recall playmaker Oscar for the occasion, especially as Eden Hazard was hurt at Stoke, and midfielder Nemanja Matic is adamant that whoever plays will be ready to perform.
"We have to be focused on our game," he said. "We are ready for everything and if we play like we are used to playing, I'm not scared of anybody.
"I have seen them in a couple of games this season and they're very strong. We expect a hard game, but we go into it with confidence, which is very important.
"We know what we have to do, we know we play for Chelsea and especially at home, we have to take three points.
"We are confident, we are top of the table and we will try to continue like this."
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce regards the 0-0 draw in January as a significant turning point in his fortunes.
The Hammers had been battling against relegation at the time and a number of fans wanted co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold to sack him.
"I might not have been here had we lost," Allardyce admitted.
"Chelsea can beat you five or six on their ground. On the back of our recent results, it would have made life for the owners even more difficult to get behind me.
"But that's not water under the bridge -- that's water under the sea. That's in the Atlantic Ocean it's that far gone. We are a completely different team and we are enjoying our football this year." Allardyce has also been boosted by confirmation that midfielder Alex Song will not be going to the Africa Cup of Nations in January.
The on-loan Barcelona man has been omitted from the Cameroon squad, although Diafra Sakho and Cheikhou Kouyate will be away representing Senegal.
Despite their absences, Allardyce has decided there is no need to dip into the transfer market next month.
"The rest of the squad are more than capable of coping for that short period of time," he said.
Centre-back James Tomkins, who has a hamstring problem, is West Ham's only injury doubt, with midfielder Mark Noble passed fit to return after an Achilles injury.