Jose Mourinho insists he does not fear for his job if Chelsea were to exit the Champions League on Wednesday. Chelsea go into the final round of group fixtures to of Group G, level on points with FC Porto, who will visit Stamford Bridge. But a defeat for Mourinho’s men and a win for Dynamo Kiev at home to already eliminated Maccabi Tel Avi will see the Premier League champions drop into the Europa League.
That would represent the latest and arguably most significant blow in what has been a tumultuous and desperately disappointing season. On Saturday, Chelsea lost at home to Bournemouth to register their eighth Premier League defeat of the season, and leave them languishing in 14th position, just two points above the relegation zone. Mourinho, though, has claimed that he still believes he retains the full support of owner Roman Abramovich.
“I think that I did lots of good things in this club for the owner to know the quality I have, and if the owner showed me that belief twice -- once when he brought me back to the club [in 2013], the second time when he gave me a new contract for four years [in the summer]. I don’t think the owner is a person to change with the wind.
“I know the wind of the results is an important wind. I know that this wind is really strong because the results in the Premier League are really bad. But I think the owner knows who I am and what I give to the club, and the owner believes that I am the right person to do the job.”
Their situation is certainly a precarious one, however, even though a draw would be enough. A win for either Chelsea or Porto would see the victor progress to the Champions League knockout phase as group winners. A draw would also be sufficient for both if Dynamo Kiev fail to win, with Porto in that scenario topping the group courtesy of their 2-1 win over Chelsea in Portugal. But if Dynamo do claim victory then a draw at Stamford Bridge would see Porto crash out, with the three teams being split on goal difference in matches between the three teams.
It looks set to ensure some tense moments at a stadium which was once a fortress under Mourinho, but this season has already witnessed four home defeats. For Mourinho the match will have the added emotion of it being against the club that launched him to becoming “the special one,” and where he first garnered the attention of Chelsea in 2004 after guiding the Portuguese club to the Champions League crown. It is still the one major hole in his resume that he has never led Chelsea, the club he has long claimed is closest to his heart, to the Champions League title.
On Wednesday one man will have particular incentive to end Mourinho’s hopes for another season. Iker Casillas was frozen out of the Real Madrid team when Mourinho was coach at the Bernabeu, which began the World Cup winning goalkeeper’s long road toward the exit door this past summer.
Casillas has conceded just one goal in Porto’s last six league matches. But he couldn’t prevent his side from suffering a 2-0 home defeat at Dynamo Kiev last time out in the Champions League, which leaves them fighting for their lives on the final match day. And it means that to be sure of progressing Porto now need to end their long barren streak in England.
“We would like to make history because Porto have never won in England -- and to do that we need to have the perfect game,” Porto’s Spanish coach Julien Lopetegui said, according to UEFA.com. “We are coming here to play good football against very good opponents and we will have to be at our best.”
Lopetegui, who played at Barcelona during the time Mourinho was a coach at the Camp Nou in the 1990s, has seen attacking midfielder André André join Italy international striker Dani Osvaldo on his injury list. Chelsea will be without former Porto front man Radamel Falcao, but have John Terry and Ramires back available.
D: Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry, Azpilicueta
M: Fabregas, Matic
Willian, Oscar, Pedro
D: M. Pereira, Marcano, Martins Indi, Layun
M: D. Pereira, Neves, Imbula
F: Tello, Aboubakar, Brahimi
Prediction: Scoring goals has been a major problem for Chelsea, which has increased the pressure on a defense that has been far less secure than past Mourinho teams. It all means that this contest is unlikely to be straightforward. Porto have plenty of dangerous players going forward and are capable of finding the net. The fate of both teams could well remain in the balance right into the final whistle, but Chelsea may just do enough.
Predicted score: Chelsea 1-1 Porto
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EST
TV channel: ESPN Deportes