Chelsea V West Ham at Stamford Bridge : Match Preview
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Improvement key for Mourinho
Jose Mourinho believes it will be next season before Chelsea are ready to make a serious assault on the Barclays Premier League title, playing down his side's chances of silverware this term.
Despite seven straight wins - five of them in the Premier League - and sitting one point behind his championship favourites Manchester City, who Chelsea play next Monday, Mourinho thinks the team's development is the solitary aim after underperforming in the league in recent seasons.
"Our main objective for this season is to build a team, the best way to build a team is to be competing for things," said Mourinho, speaking ahead of Wednesday's match with West Ham.
"Everything is coming to us. I can imagine - more than imagine, believe, really - that next season we are going to have a really strong team, starting from day one with everybody.
"This season we are in the competitions, I'm not saying to win the competitions, I'm saying to win the next match.
"Next match is West Ham. We are there to try to win it."
Mourinho provided champagne for his pre-match media conference - fulfilling a promise made on his 51st birthday on Sunday following the FA Cup defeat of Stoke after being informed Rafael Benitez provided cake on his birthday last season - and believes Chelsea have reason to be optimistic.
"We have to drink champagne because we are improving," Mourinho added.
"I think we are improving a lot: the team, the players, so the prospectives of champagne in the future are good. I think we are going into a good direction."
Chelsea have won the title once since Mourinho's September 2007 departure - in 2010 under Carlo Ancelotti - after the Portuguese delivered a first championship in 50 years in 2005 at the end of his first season in charge.
The champagne on that occasion was opened at the Reebok Stadium following a 2-0 win over a Bolton side managed by Sam Allardyce, now bidding to steer the Hammers away from the drop zone.
Mourinho, whose side won 3-0 at Upton Park in November, refuses to underestimate Allardyce's men and insists he is not looking beyond the next match this term and the continual improvement of his team, with Monday's trip to the Etihad Stadium having "zero" influence on his team selection this Wednesday.
"If in this moment we see our team is the same or even worse than it was in September, that's a big problem," Mourinho said.
"If we see that players like (Eden) Hazard, Oscar, Willian and (Cesar) Azpilicueta, these young people, they are not better now than they were six months ago, that's a big problem.
"These are things we need that's compulsory. The evolution of the players, the evolution of the team is compulsory.
"After that the results normally are a consequence of the work, are a consequence of the evolution.
"Always the next match we want to win. The results are arriving as a consequence of the team playing very good football."
Mourinho has continued his gradual squad overhaul this month.
The departure of Kevin De Bruyne was expected, as was the re-signing of Nemanja Matic.
Mohamed Salah's recruitment was a consequence of Juan Mata's departure for Manchester United and Michael Essien was allowed to leave for AC Milan on a free transfer.
Salah is likely to arrive in London, but not in time to face West Ham, while Fernando Torres (knee) remains out.
The Hammers could hand debuts to new signings Antonio Nocerino and Marco Borriello.
The two Italy internationals have signed on loan until the end of the season, while captain Kevin Nolan returns from a four-match ban, with only Joe Cole (groin) a definite absentee against one of his former clubs.
Manager Allardyce believes his struggling side can get a result against Chelsea despite Mourinho's superb home record as Blues boss.
The Portuguese, in his second spell at Stamford Bridge, is unbeaten in all 71 Premier League home games in charge and will welcome 18th-placed West Ham looking to keep pace at the top of the table.
But Allardyce does not intend to write off picking up an unlikely result against their London rivals as the Hammers battle against the drop.
"We can't go to Chelsea and lie down," he said.
"We can't go to Chelsea and think that we're not going to get a result. When all said and done, West Bromwich Albion should have beaten Chelsea this season.
"In a one-off game, if you play to your best and Chelsea aren't functioning at their best, then you can get to the end result like West Brom did. It can be achieved at any one time in any one game and we've got to believe that it can be achieved."
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