Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has heaped praise on his former Stamford Bridge assistant Steve Clarke, labelling him as “special”.

Clarke, who takes his West Bromwich Albion side to London this weekend to face his old colleague, was assistant manager to Mourinho during his three years at Chelsea between 2004 and 2007.

Saturday’s encounter will be the first time that the pair have gone head-to-head, and Mourinho was quoted by The Metro: “He’s a special guy in my career.”

Since their partnership, former Blues defender Clarke has played second fiddle at West Ham United and Liverpool, before taking his first permanent managerial role at the Hawthorns in June 2012.

Last season, he led the Baggies to an impressive eighth-place finish in the Premier League and Mourinho returned to England following an unhappy three-year spell at Real Madrid.

The Portuguese is still friends with Clarke, and admitted: “We stay in touch but not speaking about our jobs directly.

“I think he had a good experience with me. He was more than an assistant coach, he was in control of training, match preparation, so he had a very good experience as assistant manager.

“He knows that every match he plays I am with him and hope he wins, obviously tomorrow that is not the case.”

West Brom have enjoyed a solid start to the season - which included a 2-1 victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford - and currently lie in 11th place in the Premier League table.

Last season, the Baggies were beaten by Rafael Benitez’s Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, but won the reverse fixture 2-1, and Mourinho warned his players that it will be a tough match.

“It’s very difficult to play against his teams because they defend very well,” Mourinho added. 

Victory for Chelsea this weekend would see the Blues close the gap on leaders Arsenal to two points ahead of the Gunners' trip to Old Trafford on Sunday.

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