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Mourinho relishing hectic winter schedule

ESPN staff
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Jose Mourinho says "only the braves can survive" the English winter schedule © Getty Images
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Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is relishing the most demanding month of the English season and has challenged his players to rise to the occasion ahead of their hectic run of games heading into December.

The Premier League's schedule sees English clubs playing fixtures at a relentless rate over the Christmas period, while many of their European rivals enjoy a mid-season break.

That tradition has been a source of frustration for many foreign managers and players down the years, but Mourinho says he is looking forward to a busy spell that will see Chelsea play 11 matches between now and New Year's Day.

"It's a period I like," he told the pre-match news conference before Tuesday's Champions League meeting with Basel. "It's a period where I think only the braves can survive because it's hard.

"We go into the Christmas period and the accumulation of matches is so high, we don't do it as a normal thing, we do it as a special group with a special mentality, enjoying the situation, forgetting we don't have a Christmas [break] like the Spanish, Italian and German players. We don't have that.

"We have the pleasure of playing a period that's only for the braves. I like that very, very much. I enjoyed it when I was in England and I missed it when I was in Spain and Italy. Now I'm back I want to enjoy it, I want the players to enjoy it, and we need a special mentality to cope with that situation.

"Nine matches [on Chelsea's December fixture list] and one of them is the match against Steaua [Bucharest in the Champions League]. That's our motivation against Basel. To try to kill the situation in the group phase and give us a little bit of space in December; instead of having nine real, competitive matches, we [would] only have eight."

Striker Fernando Torres could be in line to play in the tie against Basel after recovering from injury as Chelsea look to avenge their 2-1 home defeat to the Swiss side on the opening day and secure their passage to the knockout phase of the competition with a game to spare.

"They are under pressure and we are not," Mourinho added. "We can finish the job to qualify and Basel, even if they win tomorrow, have to play a last [game] at Gelsenkirchen [against Schalke].

"For them, the situation is difficult. This shows clearly that, after the first match, we did our job and they didn't do theirs. This Chelsea is better than the Chelsea that played at Stamford Bridge. Hopefully we can continue the good run we've had in the Champions League and finish the job."

Mourinho also said that Juan Mata "deserves to play" after he was left out of the lineup for the win at West Ham on Saturday, but made no promise he would start at St Jakob Park.

David Luiz, meanwhile, will play no part as he has a knee injury that is set to keep him out of action for one week.

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