Jose Mourinho has downplayed his Chelsea side’s chances of triumphing in their Champions League quarterfinal, suggesting that the French champions have both the greater attacking talent and experience.
His comments before the first-leg of their last-eight tie at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday echo a tone he has struck throughout his first season back at Chelsea. Mourinho has repeatedly cast doubt, at least publicly, on both the ability and experience of his side to win the Premier League. After a defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday, he claimed they were out of the title race despite remaining top of the table at the time. His lamenting of Chelsea’s attacking talent, however, has greater foundation in reality. Mourinho’s options will be further limited on Wednesday by Samuel Eto’o being ruled out through injury. And the Portuguese cast envious eyes to the opposition, who will field his former Internazionale star Zlatan Ibrahimovic as well as Edinson Cavani.
“They have a team full of fantastic attacking players and goalscorers and that is what really makes the difference in this level,” he said, according to Chelsea’s official website.
"You look at the teams in the last eight. All of them are good teams. They are different teams but good teams with good structures and with a certain philosophy. After that you see [Lionel] Messi, [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Robert] Lewandowski, Diego Costa, Ibrahimovic, Cavani, [Ezequiel] Lavezzi, and PSG have lots of them.”
PSG are looking to make it through to Europe’s last four for only the second time in their history and notably for the first time since being bankrolled by the Qatari Investment Authority. Yet, despite the French club’s lack of experience at this stage of the competition in comparison to Chelsea, Mourinho doesn’t believe the reality on the pitch is so clear cut.
“Maybe Paris as a club doesn't have, over the last decade, the same level as Chelsea in the Champions League but you go player by player and the picture is not like that,” he explained. Alex, Thiago Silva, Zlatan, [Thiago] Motta, Maxwell, Cavani -- all of them have big experience in the competition.
“In our case it can be a little bit different because as a club we are in the Champions League season after season. We have a nucleus of players that have lots of experience in the Champions League but we also have lots of players without that experience.”
Mourinho’s comments somewhat distort the true story on the pitch, however. Indeed, Chelsea are likely to field seven Champions League winners in their lineup. In comparison, PSG could field at least five players in only their second season in the competition.
One PSG player with plenty of experience is Ibrahimovic, yet the Swede is still striving to win the one major club trophy to thus far elude him. The 32-year-old has won league titles at six different clubs in four different countries, including one under Mourinho at Inter. Yet, he doesn’t share his former manager’s depiction of PSG as favorites.
"Chelsea are the super favorites,” he said, reports UEFA’s official website. "We have nothing to lose – Chelsea are a big team. We have a project which has been going on for two years, we're having a good season and everything we achieve now is a bonus. Chelsea have been implementing their project for ten years and they have already won the [UEFA] Champions League and the [UEFA] Europa League.”
After the departure of Carlo Ancelotti last summer, former France coach Laurent Blanc has thus far done a fine job in charge of the Paris club, who sit 13 points clear at the top of Ligue 1. Blanc will have almost a full squad to choose from, with only right-back Gregory van der Wiel ruled out. As well as Eto’o, Chelsea will be without the ineligible Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah.
D: Jallet, Alex, Thiago Silva, Maxwell
M: Verratti, Motta, Matuidi
F: Cavani, Ibrahimovic, Lavezzi
D: Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta
M: Ramires, Lampard
Willian, Oscar, Hazard
Where to watch: The first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal will kick off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 1, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.