Mour­inho coy about Chelsea’s Champions League chances

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Lon­don

Jose Mour­inho has warned his Chelsea stars that fin­ish­ing at the top of their Champions League group is no guar­an­tee they will be able to make a se­ri­ous chal­lenge for the tro­phy. Mour­inho’s side en­sured it took first place in Group E with a 1- 0 win over Steaua Bucharest on Wed­nes­day, thanks to Demba Ba’s firsthalf goal at Stam­ford Bridge.

But it was an un­der­whelm­ing dis­play from the Blues against a Steaua team which of­fered only to­ken resistance and Chelsea boss Mour­inho added to the down­beat mood by re­fus­ing to talk up his team’s chance of em­u­lat­ing its 2012 tri­umph in the com­pe­ti­tion un­der Roberto Di Mat­teo.

Mour­inho might have been in­dulging in a lit­tle ‘ ki­dol­ogy’ to take the pres­sure off his play­ers when he claimed he is un­con­vinced his squad is ma­ture enough to win Europe’s elite club com­pe­ti­tion.

Yet the Por­tuguese coach’s words also con­tained more than a grain of truth in the af­ter­math of the lat­est splut­ter­ing per­for­mance in what has been an er­ratic start to his se­cond spell in charge at the Bridge.

“We have to grow up step by step,” said Mour­inho.

“We now are go­ing into matches that are new to some of my play­ers.

“Some of my play­ers didn’t play any games in the knock­out stages of the Champions League. They have played in group stages and the Europa League. It will be a dif­fer­ent sce­nario for them.

“There are teams in bet­ter con­di­tion to win the com­pe­ti­tion, or at least be seen as the fa­vorites: Bay­ern Mu­nich, Barcelona and Real Madrid.”

In the­ory, fin­ish­ing atop the group will give Chelsea a less daunt­ing op­po­nent when the draw is made for the last 16.

The Blues will face ei­ther AC Mi­lan, Zenit Saint Peters­burg, Bayer Lev­erkusen, Olympiakos or Galatasaray, which fea­tures for­mer Chelsea striker Di­dier Drogba.

But Mour­inho, who would rel­ish a clash with Drogba, is yet to be con­vinced that Os­car, Eden Haz­ard and Wil­lian, his tal­ented but in­ex­pe­ri­enced young play­mak­ers, will be able to flour­ish un­der the in­tense pres­sure of a knock­out tie against Europe’s best.

“There are good teams who fin­ished se­cond,” said Mour­inho.

“Some­times, of course, we look to the top ones and you see they are the main can­di­dates to win the com­pe­ti­tion, but in the se­cond po­si­tion you have dif­fi­cult teams.

“Mi­lan is a pos­si­ble op­po­nent that has won the Euro­pean Cup many times.

“You have the Rus­sian champions. You have a Ger­man team in Lev­erkusen who are al­ways very dif­fi­cult and the Turk­ish champions with ‘King Di­dier’.

“He de­serves to come here and get a re­cep­tion like I did when I re­turned.

“I know what I felt and I think he de­serves that.”

On the ev­i­dence of the lack­lus­ter ef­fort against Steaua, which came just days af­ter a shock 3- 2 de­feat at Stoke, Mour­inho’s re­build­ing of Chelsea is still a work in progress.

STE­FAN WER­MUTH / REUTERS

Chelsea’s Demba Ba (left) chal­lenges Steaua Bucharest’s Paul Pirvulescu dur­ing their Champions League match on Wed­nes­day.

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