Mourinho bigs up Bison
By Graeme Bailey
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Jose Mourinho admits that losing Michael Essien is a huge blow.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho admits that losing Michael Essien for their UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg tie with Liverpool is a huge blow.
Essien is suspended for the match at Stamford Bridge and his presence will be hugely missed.
The Ghanaian, nicknamed The Bison, has proved his worth in central defence as well as midfield and he would have been in-line to play in that role against Liverpool with Ricardo Carvalho injured.
"Essien is a special player. He is an athlete. He can run forever," said Mourinho.
"He could play a game every day. He is a superb athlete. When we lost him one month ago it was a big, big loss.
"But he was ready to come back for the Valencia game."
Mourinho admits that both Carvalho and Michael Ballack are major doubts.
"Carvalho is injured - and I don't think he can play against Liverpool," Mourinho announced.
"And with Ballack, the only thing I know is that he couldn't walk on the pitch. With him we will have to see."
One man in line to replace Ballack will be John Obi Mikel - who Mourinho feels is beginning to prove himself in West London.
"When I have such great role models, it is easy to educate the boy," said Mourinho.
"I could say `did you see [Frank] Lampard coming in late, [Ricardo] Carvalho training bad or [Michael] Ballack making a mistake with the shirt? Did you see John Terry not playing because he has a small injury?'
"It is easy to do it. I think I had an easy job. I asked some players - Didier [Drogba], Maka [Makelele] and African boys more connected in the cultural level - to help me with this fight - and the progression was fantastic!
"Around the world we have some players in that position with different qualities. John with the ball is so simple and simple in football in this kind of position means genius.
"I think he's a genius in that position. He doesn't lose the ball and he passes the ball so simply. He plays one or two-touch football and the team plays a very good possession game with him in that position.
"And defensively, he is improving a lot. I think his best position is that position."