‘Here we go again,’ may have been a common reaction to Chelsea’s Champions League group stage draw when two of the other three clubs are ones we met on the way to lifting the Europa League trophy earlier this year, but Jose Mourinho believes that comes with an advantage for tomorrow’s away game and rematch with Steaua Bucharest.
In contrast to games against Basel when the Blues won home and away in the Europa League but came unstuck against the Swiss in the opening match of this season’s Champions League, we lost 1-0 last season away to Steaua before turning the tie around with a 3-1 win in the second leg.
Speaking at Romania’s National Arena on the eve of a game he already declared Chelsea must make every effort to win in light of the Basel defeat, Mourinho said:
‘It is easy to see that Steaua are well organised and that means the coach is good, and because last year my players lost here it is good for me.
‘Because they lost and they know why and they know that it is not easy here, they know that tomorrow will be difficult again. So in terms of motivation and concentration we are maybe one step ahead in relation to last season, because that was really a bit of a surprise. This season they know they are going to play against a good team.’
Since the two meetings back in March, Steaua sold their two goalscorers in those matches – Raul Rusescu to Seville and Vlad Chiriches to Tottenham. However Mourinho thinks they have not altered greatly as a unit.
‘Steaua have the same manager and they lost one important player but basically it is the same structure. But now they are [Romanian] champions and they qualified to play in the Champions League group so they have more experience and more motivation. They are a better team.’
Our manager returned to the opening games of this group stage for further analysis. Steaua were defeated too, 3-0 away to Schalke.
‘In the first half Steaua controlled the game defensively, with no problems and no big chances for either team,’ he said.
‘But in the second half with the first goal from Schalke the situation became more difficult, but they showed they have the level to compete in this group, to fight for points and to try to qualify for the next round, or at least to finish third.
‘For sure they will get points and they will have something to say in the group.’
It rained heavily in Bucharest on Monday with more forecast for matchday. The pitch in the 55,000 capacity national arena is wet but there has been a roof in place since lunchtime.
‘It is also the responsibility of UEFA,’ Mourinho noted, ‘because they are always worried with many things and the pitch is a very important thing in a football match. So I leave it with Steaua, I leave it with UEFA and we have to play on the pitch that will be presented to us.’
A squad of 20 travelled to Romania. Eden Hazard joins Marco van Ginkel on the injured list with Kevin De Bruyne also remaining in England.
‘Eden I don’t think will be fit for Sunday,’ reported the manager.
‘I think he will be fit after the international break but Dr Biosca is always optimistic and says there is a little chance he can be fit for Sunday [when Chelsea visit Norwich].
‘Kevin is my option. I make mistakes but I try to be honest all the time so the same way I try to be honest with Juan [Mata] and say tomorrow he will play because of what he did in training and because of what he did in the last matches he played, it is the same with Kevin. He is not selected because I did not like the way he played against Swindon and I did not like the way he was training.’