Just days after conceding Chelsea’s hopes of winning the Barclays Premier League title without a prolific goalscorer were slim, Jose Mourinho confessed he did not expect to win the Champions League either.
Form has been fitful for Mourinho’s team, with strikers misfiring and the defence leaking goals at such a rate that he joked he dare not practise set-pieces in training in case the ‘dummies’ scored.
He was grumbling here about luck of the bounce and predicted the ball would fly off one of the mannequins he uses for defensive drills and past Petr Cech into the net, but he was not fooling around when he assessed Europe’s top teams.Victory against Steaua Bucharest on Wednesday night will send Chelsea into the last 16 as Group E winners but he does not rate his own team on a level with Bayern Munich, Barcelona or Real Madrid.
‘Our chances this season, my first season, are not comparable with the chances of other clubs,’ said Mourinho. ‘Other clubs have different stability, squads and evolution of the team to be considered the favourites to win the competition.
‘If we reach the quarter-final, which is the next step, every team in the quarter-final has a chance to win it. But I think we are not considered one of the favourites.
‘My favourites are Bayern, Barcelona and Real Madrid. These three teams are, clearly in terms of potential and responsibilities, in front. ‘Other teams are very strong and when one of these arrives in the last eight, anything can happen. These teams are Manchester City, United, Atletico Madrid and Chelsea.
‘We are still in the first phase but in the last 16 we will find some difficult opponents. Some important teams can finish second: City, Dortmund, Juventus, but could beat any of those who finish first.’
Chelsea’s form has taken a turn for the worse since November. The last eight games have produced four wins, three losses and a draw.
They lost 3-2 at Stoke on Saturday and return to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday having conceded six in two games away from home but will not change their attacking philosophy, according to the boss.
‘The most difficult thing in football is play the way we are playing,’ said Mourinho. ‘It is more difficult to play offensive, creative and dynamic football. The easiest thing in football is to play defensively.
‘Am I going to change the style and play more defensive style? No. Am I going to play David Luiz in front of the centre halves? No. Am I going to play on the counter-attack with Fernando Torres up front? No. We go in the same direction.’
As for the goals conceded, the Chelsea boss insisted his team could have done nothing more to stop Sunderland in a 4-3 win at the Stadium of Light.
‘I was analysing the game for an hour, slow motion, going over every incident, but we did nothing wrong,’ said Mourinho. ‘I didn’t see defensive mistakes against Stoke. It’s unbelievable how we lost that game, same against Everton. We are creating a lot.
‘We have to kill opponents and we have to score goals. If we can’t do that we have to be safe at the back.
‘Maybe you laugh but, if we trained defensive corners against the dummies at the moment, maybe one time they would score. All the rebounds are going to the opponents, so I think the rebounds will go to the dummies too. I think one dummy will score.’
Mourinho has promised to rest ‘a couple of players’ against Steaua. Luiz and Oscar are fit to play after injuries and Ashley Cole will return to make his first Chelsea start since the defeat at Newcastle on November 2.
‘It’s easy to feel he’s not happy, not comfortable with the situation but the way he behaves and trains is super-professional,’ said Mourinho, who expects Cole to be offered a new deal when his contract expires at the end of the season.
Mourinho added: ‘He will always be a good player. Naturally, he will get his contract because he’s a valuable player for us.’
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