x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Uefa Champions League round-up: Mourinho says Chelsea ‘are not favourites’

Manager is trying to win Uefa Champions League title for third time with as many teams while Dortmund and Napoli prepare for clash and Zenit have slight edge over Porto.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, right, thinks Bayern Munich are strong contenders for the title. Sang Tan / AP Photo
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, right, thinks Bayern Munich are strong contenders for the title. Sang Tan / AP Photo

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho played down his side’s chances of winning the Uefa Champions League ahead of their final Group E match at home against Romanian club Steaua Bucharest.

Mourinho is bidding to win the competition for a third club, having taken Porto and Inter Milan all the way, but feels the Londoners who surprisingly won the title in 2011 under Roberto Di Matteo have only an outside shot at reaching the final in Lisbon.

“I think our chances this season, which is my first season [back], are not comparable with the chances of other clubs,” said Mourinho, whose side have already qualified for the last 16.

“Other clubs have stability in the squad, which we don’t have, and the evolution of the team to be considered favourites to win the competition.

“But we have reached the last 16, and if we reach the quarter-finals, I always used to say that every team in the quarter-finals has a chance to win it.

“My analysis of the situation is we are not favourites to win it. Bayern Munich are the favourites – they have unbelievable stability. Barcelona and Real Madrid, too, I will say, clearly in terms of potential, are clearly in front.”

Mourinho said that England left-back Ashley Cole will return to the starting line-up against Steaua after being left out in favour of Cesar Azpilicueta in recent weeks.

“When he is on the bench, I can feel his will to win, even if he is not on the pitch,” Mourinho said.

“He is a fantastic guy. Full respect from me and the players and he starts tomorrow.” The group’s other game sees Swiss side Basel travel to Germany to face Schalke, knowing a point would be enough to see them through to the knock-out rounds.

Group F: Dortmund have injuries and Napoli need some help

In a potentially complicated scenario, Borussia Dortmund need to beat Marseille to be sure of advancing from Group F.

A draw would be enough if Napoli fail to win at home against group leader Arsenal. Dortmund can even afford to lose, assuming Napoli do the same. Three teams could finish with 12 points – meaning that for the first time, a side with 12 points would be eliminated.

Dortmund gain more injury problems with nearly every match. Their 1-0 Bundesliga loss to Bayer Leverkusen was made worse by the injuries to Sven Bender and Nuri Sahin, both of whom sustained right-ankle injuries. Bender has been ruled out of the match in Marseille and Sahin is highly doubtful.

“We want to spend the winter in the Champions League and that’s how we’ll approach the match. We are not going to lament,” Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp said.

Neven Subotic, Mats Hummels, Marcel Schmelzer, Ilkay Gundogan and Bender will not play and defender Manuel Friedrich is ineligible.

Napoli need some help from Marseille to advance. The Italian club can take matters into its own hands if it beats Arsenal by three goals, but that seems unlikely. Otherwise, Napoli need to beat Arsenal by a smaller margin and hope Marseille hold Dortmund to at least a draw, or draw with Arsenal and hope Marseille wins.

“We have the advantage of playing at home and we need to perform at our maximum,” Napoli’s Christian Maggio said. “Of course we’ll wait to see how it goes in Marseille, but first of all, we’ve got to worry about ourselves.”

Making matters more difficult for Napoli is that captain Marek Hamsik is out with a bruised foot.

No French club has ever finished the group stage of the Champions League with zero points. Marseille would become the first to achieve that unenviable feat if it loses to Dortmund.

Group G: Zenit have slight edge over Porto

Zenit St Petersburg and Porto remain in competition for the one remaining Uefa Champions League spot in Group G.

Porto, two-time European champions, has the tougher task with a visit to group winner Atletico Madrid. Zenit travel to winless Austria Vienna, who finished last in the group. Zenit can qualify for the knock out rounds by at least matching Porto’s result.

Porto must beat Atletico and hope Zenit lose in Vienna to advance. If the teams finish level on points, the Russians advance with a better head-to-head record.

Porto’s hopes of salvaging their campaign received a lift with the inclusion of Lucho Gonzalez in the squad travelling to Madrid. Porto will hope already-qualified Atletico rest some players.

They top of the Spanish standings with Barcelona, having won all nine of their league and Champions League matches at the Vicente Calderon Stadium this season.