Exactly 6 years to this day since the last Champions League game that Chelsea played with Mourinho at the helm. He was sacked following the 1-1 draw with Rosenborg, most will feel that it is an improbable scenario to repeat itself whatever the score line may be.
Chelsea begin their campaign against a team they beat in the Europa League on course to winning the trophy last season, Basel. The Swiss side are tricky opposition with a handful of attacking players that have looked extremely lively when the two sides met last season, in particular winger Salah whose pace and dribbling ability will make him a handful for whoever is tasked with marking him. Up front the pair of Fabian Frei and Marco Streller are capable of upsetting any defence as Manchester United found out a couple of seasons prior.
Mourinho comes into this game with a fully fit squad, Michael Essien the only notable absentee but that is due to the number of players the club are allowed to register for the tournament. Question marks surround who will play in practically every position. Arguably the only two guarantees being Cech and Cole, the pair enter their 91st and 101st Champions League games respectively and that experience is something this Chelsea team has over all the opponents in the group.
Up front, it remains to be seen whether Fernando Torres will be given the nod ahead of a seemingly not match fit Samuel Eto’o (who incredibly has already been written off in some quarters). Torres saved his best performances last season for European competitions, albeit the younger, less glamorous sibling. Although with a group that features two of the teams Chelsea beat in that run, this may be the best place to try and get some confidence into the once great striker.
Again fans will also be awaiting the team sheet to see whether Juan Mata is selected, although be prepared for “He’s not a Mourinho player” comments if he doesn’t, or “He’s putting him in the shop window” if he does. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Chelsea will once again likely look to Eden Hazard to provide the spark needed for victory, however his performances either side of his fantastic display against Bayern Munich have only seen flashes of brilliance. It has been his teammate. Could this be the day Willian gets his debut after seeing the light?
After last season’s, quite frankly, impotent defence of the Champions League, Chelsea will look to bounce back this season and nothing will perhaps please Mourinho more than to win the trophy and take out a full page ad in Marca and AS, the ever spiteful Spanish newspapers that are intent on holding on to their grudge with Mourinho.
Whilst the group is arguably as good as it gets for Chelsea, it is important to get off to a quick start and impose a dominance over the group. The last three games have provided two defeats (one on penalties) and a loss, a return to winning ways will be what the doctor ordered ahead of the only West London Derby this year – A friendly reminder to laugh at QPR’s misfortunes.
2013 – Europa League:
Basel 1 – 2 Chelsea (Schar; Moses, Luiz)
Chelsea 3 – 1 Basel (Torres, Luiz, Moses; Salah)