LONDON - Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has issued a veiled warning to his team, saying that some of his players had made selecting his team "easy" after they struggled to overcome fourth-tier Shrewsbury Town in the League Cup.
Chelsea booked their place in the quarter-finals with a 2-1 win on Tuesday, but it took an 81st-minute own goal by Jermaine Grandison to send them through after Andy Mangan cancelled out Didier Drogba's opener.
Andre Schuerrle, Mohamed Salah and Filipe Luis were among the fringe players given opportunities to shine and Mourinho, who made seven changes to his starting XI, said they failed to impress.
"I expect players to give me problems. I love problems. But a lot of them didn't and they've made it easy to choose my team for Saturday," said Mourinho, whose side host Queens Park Rangers this weekend.
"If players who played 90 minutes two days ago were fantastic, I expect people who are not playing a lot to raise the level to create me problems (in selection). They didn't create big problems for me."
But Mourinho, who also gave a debut to right-back Andreas Christensen, was full of praise for Drogba after the 36-year-old Ivorian netted his second goal in two games.
"Yes, I was worried when they equalised, but we go through and Didier played a massive part in that," said the Portuguese. "Hopefully he will be good for the weekend, but we will have to see because right now his character is stronger than his body. Maybe what he has done today is through his character, not his body. That's what makes players special and any of the young players lucky enough to play alongside him can learn from that."
Meanwhile, Mario Balotelli tweeted his relief with just one word - "finally" - as he scored just his second goal for Liverpool in 12 appearances as they came from behind to beat EPL rivals Swansea 2-1 and advance to the last eight of the League Cup.
Balotelli has struggled since his £16 million (S$33 million) pre-season move from AC Milan, and he was on the bench until 11 minutes from time on Tuesday.
When the Italian striker was sent on by Reds boss Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool were trailing 1-0 to Marvin Emnes' 65th-minute goal.
But four minutes from time, Balotelli evaded the visitors' defence to equalise.
Swansea had Federico Fernandez controversially sent off before Dejan Lovren scored the winner - his first goal for Liverpool.
Liverpool assistant manager Colin Pascoe said of Balotelli: "He is working hard in training and he got his just rewards coming on and getting the goal."