Weaker Blues would escape sanction

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is likely to field a weakened side to play Liverpool on Sunday
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is likely to field a weakened side to play Liverpool on Sunday

Chelsea are unlikely to be punished by the Premier League if Jose Mourinho carries out his proposal to field an alternate side at Liverpool on Sunday to safeguard Champions League hopes.

With the Blues five points adrift of Premier League leaders Liverpool with three games to play, Mourinho - subject to Football Association disciplinary action along with assistant Rui Faria and midfielder Ramires following last weekend’s controversial home loss to Sunderland - wishes to prioritise next Wednesday’s semi-final second leg with Atletico Madrid after drawing the first in Spain 0-0 on Tuesday night.

Third-placed Manchester City, who could overhaul Liverpool if Chelsea win and they win their game in-hand, could be angered if Mourinho opts not to utilise his frontline players at Anfield.

But the Blues, who insist they have quality throughout the squad, are not expected to infringe regulations that were relaxed after Blackpool were punished in 2011.

Clubs can select any player in their 25-man squad list without fear of sanction; action would likely only be taken if a number of younger players from outside the list are selected.

Mourinho, who plans to discuss his selection options with the Chelsea hierarchy, is without goalkeeper Petr Cech (dislocated shoulder) for the remainder of the season and captain John Terry (ankle) for at least a week.

But Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel, Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah are among those who are likely to feature at Anfield.

Lampard and Mikel are both suspended for the Atletico clash after picking up first-leg bookings, while January signings Matic and Salah are ineligible in Europe.

The Champions League, and reaching the May 24 final in Lisbon against Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, is now Mourinho’s priority and defender Gary Cahill believes Chelsea can take comfort from responding to adversity in their 2012 European Cup-winning campaign.

“It’s never ideal to lose players but we have the squad to cope with it,” Cahill said.

“We look back at how we coped with a similar situation on the way to winning it in 2012 and it gives us confidence.

“We seem to be able to grind out results when we need to in this competition.

“We’re really, really close to the final now, we have one more game at home and have to give it every single thing we’ve got.”

Two years ago the Blues were out of domestic contention - they finished sixth - but now they are in the title hunt, albeit with a slim chance of the trophy after last Saturday’s loss to Sunderland.

The Portuguese’s happy demeanour has soured in recent weeks and his selection suggestion could be, in part, due to the refusal of the football authorities to move the Premier League contest forward to allow his side more time to prepare for the Atletico clash.

Mourinho was given further reason to be unhappy as he faces disciplinary proceedings following his sarcastic appraisal of the officials after the Sunderland defeat.

Mourinho and Faria, who faces two counts of misconduct, have until next Monday at 6pm to respond, while Ramires has until Thursday evening at 6pm to decide how to respond to his violent conduct charge for striking Sebastian Larsson.

The Brazil midfielder, who has been sent off twice already this term, faces a premature end to his domestic season.