Jose Mourinho is determined that Basel won’t be taken lightly as Chelsea return to what he believes is their “natural habitat” of the Champions League. Last season, then-holders Chelsea suffered the ignominy of going out at the group phase and entering the Europa League, although it was a competition that they went onto win, having beaten Wednesday’s opponents on the way. Few are expecting Chelsea to have similar problems reaching the knockout phase this time with a group that also features Schalke and Steua Bucharest. Mourinho, though, is well aware of Basel’s recent European pedigree.
“With Basel, at the first look people think 'Not so difficult,’” he said, according to UEFA.com. “I just remember two years ago: Manchester United out, and Basel through. Last year: Tottenham out, and Basel through. So they're a difficult team.”
The match at Stamford Bridge will also represent a first Champions League match for Mourinho in charge of Chelsea for six years. His first reign came to an abrupt end after a 1-1 draw at home to Rosenborg in the group stage. The Portuguese coach has since gone onto win the Champions League for a second time with Inter Milan before being frustrated in the semifinals for three-straight years while in charge of Real Madrid. Mourinho, though, disputes the idea that winning the competition is an obsession, although it is a trophy that he would love to claim once more.
“If you win [the Champions League] once you dream to win it twice,” he explained. “It's the same with me: I won it twice -- I dream to win it for a third time. But I have to focus not in the past but in the future. I want to win for the third time -- I want Chelsea to win for the second time.”
Mourinho has confirmed that he will have a full squad to choose from, including Samuel Eto’o, who was part of the Inter side that won the Champions League under the Portuguese’s charge in 2010. The Cameroonian striker had an unhappy debut on Saturday as Chelsea suffered their first Premier League defeat of the season, at Everton.
Basel have won four straight Swiss titles, but have been less than dominant at the start of this season in drawing three and losing one of their first seven matches. Perhaps that is not surprising given that the club sold the likes of center-back Aleksandar Dragovic, midfielder Cabral and full-back Markus Steinhofer over the summer. In their place in the starting lineup on Wednesday are likely to be summer signings, Ivan Ivanov, Mohamed Elneny and Behrang Safari.
Coach Murat Yakin accepts that Chelsea are firm favorites to win the group but is looking to put his side in a position to progress as runners-up.
“Of course we want to go through and play in this competition after the winter break, but let's see,” he said. “We gained a lot of experience from last season. We'll be playing for second place, we have Schalke and Steaua in the group too; obviously Chelsea are the clear favorites, but let's see after these first two games.”
D: Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole
M: Ramires, Mikel
De Bruyne, Oscar, Hazard
D: Degen, Ivanov, Schar, Safari
M: Frei, Elneny, Delgado
F: Salah, Streller, Stocker
Prediction: Eto’o’s debut at the weekend suggested that he may take a while to settle, while Mourinho must be hoping that the failure to spend big on a striker doesn’t prove costly this season. Behind the front man, Chelsea have an abundance of riches, perhaps almost too much so, with Mourinho still trying to find the best blend. Still, Chelsea should be too strong for their Swiss opponents.
Basel have quality going forward out wide with Mohammed Salah and Valentin Stocker, but Chelsea have accomplished full-backs that should be able to mitigate their threat. Yakin will be expecting little from the trip to Stamford Bridge and knows that Basel’s fate is likely to be decided by how his side fare against Schalke and Steaua.
Chelsea 2-0 Basel
Where to watch: The Champions League Group E match will kick-off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 2, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.