Manager says striker is a danger to goalkeepers as Liverpool deny blocking request to move fixture forward
By Jason Burt
Jose Mourinho has risked further damaging his relationship with Liverpool by claiming that he is worried about playing goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer at Anfield on Sunday because of the way Luis Suárez “dives” for penalties.
The Chelsea manager said that Suárez routinely attempted to “hit the goalkeeper” when he ran into the penalty area and, with Petr Cech injured, he could not afford for his second-choice Schwarzer to be hurt ahead of the Champions League semi-final second leg against Atlético Madrid on Wednesday.
Mourinho did not specifically name Suárez but he has previously labelled the Uruguayan the “king of penalties” for his ability to win spot-kicks. The Portuguese’s swipe can also be regarded as a warning to referee Martin Atkinson ahead of the game on Merseyside, which could be decisive in the Premier League title race.
Asked whether, with Cech facing the prospect of shoulder surgery, he could risk second-choice Schwarzer at Anfield, Mourinho said: “It’s a big dilemma. Yes. With players that are always looking for penalties and they go for contact with the goalkeeper it is even more dangerous. When the goalkeeper comes and this kind of striker they go there to hit the goalkeeper and dive for a penalty, it is even more dangerous.”
Mourinho accused Suárez of “doing an acrobatic swimming pool jump” to try to earn a penalty during Chelsea’s 2-1 win against Liverpool in late December – the last time that Brendan Rodgers’s side, who lead the Premier League table by five points, were defeated in the league.
Despite his complaints the likelihood is that Mourinho will play 41-year-old Schwarzer on Sunday and in the semi-final second leg at home against Atlético on Wednesday. Chelsea’s third-choice goalkeeper is Henrique Hilario, who has not made a first-team appearance in almost three years.
Meanwhile, Liverpool have disputed Chelsea’s claim that they refused to move Sunday’s fixture forward by 24 hours to help the Londoners prepare for their Champions League encounter against Atlético.
Chelsea say that their request to play the game on Saturday was flatly rejected by Liverpool but Rodgers said: “I think the Premier League should have helped them this weekend. It’s not Liverpool’s fault, it’s the Premier League’s. They should have had the game on the Saturday. That is nobody’s fault bar the Premier League. That is what happens and you have to deal with it.”
Liverpool – who on Saturday dismissed any suggestion of a bust-up between Suárez and Matrin Skrtel, after pictures emerged of them squabbling during a training-ground game of head tennis – would be almost guaranteed their first league championship in 24 years if they defeat Chelsea and Manchester City lose at Crystal Palace in Sunday’s later kick-off. That would leave City needing to win all their remaining three games, and Liverpool failing to earn a point from their final two fixtures.
Manuel Pellegrini, the City manager, admitted that he would have no excuses if his side were to be denied a second title in three years. “Every manager who is a sportsman knows what it is to win and what it is to lose,” he said. “If Liverpool win the title I will congratulate their players. We will not try and find a reason why they don’t deserve to do it, because they are very good players and play very good football.”