Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho aims to nurture his young side through to the knockout stages of the Champions League after making reference to the cracks which appeared prior to his 2007 departure from Stamford Bridge.
Six years to the day since last taking charge of Chelsea in the Champions League, Mourinho’s side on this evening host Basel in Group E.
The Portuguese departed following a draw with Norway’s Rosenborg on 18 September, 2007, which extended Chelsea’s winless run to three games – failure to beat Basel tonight will make it four – after Mourinho delivered a scrambled message on the eve of the match.
It turned out to be a parting shot at Roman Abramovich and the owner’s recruitment policy, when Mourinho said: “In the supermarket, you have eggs class one, class two, class three. Some are more expensive than others and some give you better omelettes. So when the class one eggs are in Waitrose and you cannot go there, you have a problem.”
Mourinho returned to Chelsea in June assigned with overseeing a developing squad full of potential and he appears intent on tempering expectations.
Asked what his eggs are like now, Mourinho said: “Beautiful young eggs, eggs that need a mum, in this case a dad, to take care of them, to keep them warm during the winter, to bring the blankets and to work and improve them and one day we’ll arrive in a moment when the weather changes, the sun rises, we break the eggs and the eggs are ready to go for life at the top level.”
Mourinho plans to select four players aged 22 or under for the Blues’ first return to the Champions League since last season suffering the ignominy of becoming the first holders to exit at the group stages.
Chelsea responded by winning the Europa League – beating Basel in the semi-finals en route to the trophy – in a competition Mourinho does not want to consider this term.
“I want to try to start the group phase by winning,” added Mourinho, who won the 2004 Champions League with Porto and the 2010 competition with Inter Milan. “Last season Chelsea went outside his natural habitat, which is the Champions League.
“Chelsea went out to a competition that is not Chelsea’s competition. We don’t want to do that again. It’s important for a team of kids. It’s very, very important for them to play on the big stage and the big stage is the Champions League.”
Winning the European Cup was an obsession for Chelsea and the one honour Mourinho failed to claim in his first spell at Stamford Bridge.
Yet he feels he played a part in the 2012 Munich success. “I never felt the business was unfinished,” he said. “For me the important thing is that Chelsea had a dream and the dream became true, by winning the Champions League.
“It’s normal that, if you win it once, you dream to win it twice. That happened to me. And when I won the second time I dreamed to win for a third time. That’s the nature of football.
“When you work in a club and you work in that, you prepare the future, you leave something in the club that remains for years.
“Your business doesn’t finish the day you leave, your business finishes the day everything you did disappears.”
Mourinho felt it was just that Chelsea won the trophy after Luis Garcia’s ghost goal for Liverpool, some controversial encounters with Barcelona and a 2008 penalty shootout defeat to Manchester United.
“Some of the players were in every one of those moments,” Mourinho added. “When Chelsea won the Champions League the gods of football made justice with the club and with a group of players that did so much to touch that cup.”
Mourinho believes Basel are difficult opponents but is unconcerned by the Blues’ worst start to a Barclays Premier League season in a decade and is intent on victory.
“We’ve lost one match [at Everton last Saturday],” he said. “It’s Champions League we start tomorrow, zero matches, zero points. I have to focus not in the past, I have to focus in the future.
“No obsession for me, no obsession for Chelsea, but I want to win for the third time, I want Chelsea to win for the second time and this is the beginning of a process with the Champions League.
“No dramas. Calm and no pressure, no problem.”