By Tom Hayward
LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea returned to the top of the Premier League with a 3-0 home stroll against Stoke City on Saturday but still eating away at manager Jose Mourinho were the recent away defeats that have undermined their title challenge.
His side have again been impressive at Stamford Bridge where they are unbeaten in 77 matches during Mourinho's two spells in charge, but away from home they have come unstuck against some of the division's lesser lights.
Successive away defeats by Aston Villa and Crystal Palace mean Chelsea's fate is no longer in their own hands.
Those losses prompted Mourinho to criticise his players' mental strength and question their character and motivation against smaller clubs and he returned to the subject again after a routine home win.
"You have to adapt," he told reporters. "If I go to a wedding I don't go with jeans. And if I leave my house to give a walk in Hyde Park I don't go smoking."
"You must obviously get more points at home but away you have matches where we must change our profile and adapt to the situation.
"So when you go to play Crystal Palace you know the way you have to go. It's different so they have to adapt to the reality and for some of the boys it is not easy to adapt to certain reality.
"In football, to be champions and win titles you have to play in the sun, in the rain, in the cold, in the hot, in small pitches, in big pitches, direct football, possession football. You have to adapt."
The Chelsea manager reserved special praise for Mohamad Salah on Saturday after he opened the scoring on his first start for the club.
Mourinho believes the 21-year-old has a big future at Stamford Bridge.
"We bought a kid from a different habitat. An Egyptian player playing in Switzerland. We knew that the kid was going to need time," he said.
"We know that next season he will be a real good player for us. This season, step-by-step. Ten minutes here, ten minutes there."
"One thing that you feel immediately, which is the connection between him and the crowd. They like him. They like his style of play ad he is a player that we need. Chelsea did very well to bring him."
Frank Lampard and Willian added further goals in a victory that lifted the Blues back to the top with 72 points, one point ahead of Liverpool, although the Reds can move back into first with a win or a draw against West Ham United on Sunday.