It was the moment that Jose Mourinho’s dream of forever enshrining his name in the most prestigious of record books was effectively and emphatically ended. The dream of delivering the world’s biggest club their long-sought record 10th European Cup and himself an unprecedented triumph in the world’s premier club competition with a third different team. On an April night in 2013, Borussia Dortmund and their clinical striker Robert Lewandowski tore through Mourinho’s Madrid side to claim a stunning 4-1 win in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal.
Already by that stage, it was all-but a done deal that Mourinho would be leaving Madrid in the summer, his relationship with the dressing room and the media room having become strained beyond breaking point. Two-and-a-half years on and those problems seem awfully familiar. In an unimaginably disastrous start to the season, Mourinho has fallen out with almost everyone around him, both inside and outside the confines of the club he has long claimed was closest to his heart. It appears that the sword is just waiting to drop.
On Saturday the blow could be delivered, and by the man who masterminded Mourinho’s painful night in Dortmund -- Jurgen Klopp. The charismatic German has jetted into Liverpool this month with the same fervor that accompanied Mourinho’s first arrival in England over a decade ago. Now awaiting him is the chance to fully assume the mantle of the Premier League’s superstar manager when his new side visit Chelsea this weekend.
Reports suggest that Mourinho could now just be one loss from the sack. Regardless of whether that has been set in stone, it is clear that things cannot continue as they are at Stamford Bridge for too much longer. Chelsea, the champions lest it be forgotten, sit 15th in the Premier League table with just 10 points from 11 games. In all competitions they have already lost six matches, two more than through the entirety of last season.
Adding to the alarming results is the continued controversy he continues to bring to a club still looking to fully establish itself an esteemed reputation among the world’s elite. Far from the “happy one” he described himself as when returning to Chelsea in 2013, Mourinho has raged against everyone in his path this season, from his own medical staff, to referees, Chelsea’s transfer deal-brokers and the media. What was long described as genius mind games, designed to deflect attention from his own team, are increasingly the behavior of a man losing control, desperately attempting to arrest the worst run of form in his managerial career.
No more was that evident than against West Ham last Saturday. With little cause for justifiable dissention -- Nemanja Matic had been rightly sent off, his team had been rightly denied a goal when the ball failed to cross the line and a marginal offside call had gone against Chelsea -- Mourinho reportedly confronted the referee at halftime and was promptly told to spend the second half watching from the stands. The sight of one of the most successful managers of his generation sat motionless and alone at the back of the Upton Park directors’ box as everyone around him celebrated Andy Carroll’s winning goal was a picture that spoke a thousand words about just how far Mourinho’s star has waned.
On Tuesday, things got worse, still. Despite a more spirited performance and an injury-time equalizer from Loic Remy, Chelsea crashed out of the Capital One Cup to Stoke City after a penalty shootout.
A match with Klopp’s Liverpool promises to offer little respite. After beginning with three straight draws that offered encouragement but also some frustration, Klopp broke his duck on Wednesday with a 1-0 win over Bournemouth to make the Capital One Cup quarterfinals. Three players made their full debuts that night, but the star of the show was Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian has struggled to assert himself since arriving from Hoffenheim for £29 million in the summer, but, under the tutelage of a manager who knows all about his abilities from seeing him firsthand in the Bundesliga, he could be set to thrive.
And, with Klopp hopeful that the club’s other big summer arrival, Christian Benteke, will be fit for Saturday, Liverpool’s attack may suddenly look far more threatening. A lack of cutting edge has blighted the Merseysiders’ form in recent weeks, leading to five successive draws before their mid-week win. With Daniel Sturridge, Danny Ings and Jordan Henderson still on the sidelines, Klopp has been left short on attacking thrust.
He has, though, already had a positive impact on the defense, conceding just two goals in his four matches. And there are signs of his ferocious pressing emerging. Even if Klopp’s Liverpool side currently lack the quality and understanding to execute the kind of evisceration Dortmund dealt out to Real Madrid back in 2013, Chelsea and Mourinho will not get an easy ride as they seek some much-needed relief.
D: Zouma, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta
Willian, Fabregas, Hazard
D: Clyne, Skrtel, Sakho, Moreno
Milner, Firmino, Coutino
Prediction: There were some positive signs from Chelsea against Stoke, yet the resounding feeling will again be one of disappointment. And, perhaps most despairingly, it was Eden Hazard, the man Chelsea desperately need to rediscover his mojo, who missed the decisive penalty. It is now extremely difficult to see something just clicking into place for Chelsea as seemed inevitable at the start of their slide. Mourinho has seemingly tried everything, to no avail. Liverpool, in contrast appear on the up, fully behind their new coach and desperate to impress. Still, plenty of work needs to be done and it could mean Liverpool are forced to settle for just a point.
Predicted score: Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool