José Mourinho has a piece of advice for Gus Poyet before the League Cup quarter-final at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday. "Gus is trying to avoid relegation so he has to play the kids from the academy in our game and keep the guys fresh for the next weekend," said Chelsea's manager.
Quite apart from not being a big fan of rotation his Sunderland counterpart is too intent on trying to imbue his struggling players with a winning habit for Mourinho's suggestion to stand much chance of being taken seriously.
"I don't try to look too far ahead," Poyet said. "If I start thinking about Norwich [at home on Saturday in the Premier League], already it gets difficult to make decisions. But if we want to get out of the relegation zone, then we have to win matches, become winners. We want to win the cup game for that reason. Let's hope we can beat Chelsea, then we will be very confident for Norwich."
For Mourinho the League Cup offers the prospect of silverware in a transitional season. "When you are in the quarter-final, you smell the final. It's not very far. We are going to try."
Poyet does not doubt him. "If we give them chances, they will score," he said. "I don't think it will be a weak Chelsea. I am expecting a very strong one."
Undaunted, Poyet, a former Chelsea player, will attempt to counter Mourinho's side with several of Sunderland's better individuals. "There will not be massive changes," Poyet said. "I am looking for consistency. I used to hate it as a player when managers changed it. I absolutely hated the rotation system. Hated it. I didn't like to feel I was at my best in one game then in the next I was sitting on the bench for no reason. Someone thought I needed a rest when I didn't."
He feels the chance of semi-final involvement will inspire players stuck firmly to the bottom of the Premier League. "It's a competition. You can't go in to a season thinking I don't care about this one," Poyet said. "It's about playing and about becoming winners. A winner is somebody who wins most of the time. That's what we have to try to be.
"Everybody talks about confidence. That is such an important word in football. There is no better game to improve your confidence. If we can beat Chelsea and reach the semi-finals then the confidence should be high. Suddenly when you are winning games you all become winners. That's why this quarter-final is so important. It's an opportunity to start winning games. You have to take that opportunity."