LONDON (AFP) – Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho vowed to make amends for Chelsea’s Champions League group stage elimination last season by keeping his “eggs” in their “natural habit” this term.
Six years to the day since Mourinho last took charge of the Blues in the Champions League, Chelsea host Swiss champions Basel on Wednesday in their opening Group E fixture.
After leaving Real Madrid this summer, Mourinho returned to Chelsea in June charged with the task of nurturing a developing squad full of potential, and he appears keen to play down expectations.
Asked what his eggs are like now, in a reference to an analogy he made just before leaving the club in 2007, Mourinho said: “Beautiful young eggs, eggs that need a mum, in this case a dad, to take care of them, to keep them warm during the winter, to bring the blankets and to work and improve them and one day we’ll arrive in a moment when the weather changes, the sun rises, we break the eggs and the eggs are ready to go for life at the top level.”
The Portuguese’s first spell was brought to an end following a 1-1 draw at home to Norway’s Rosenborg on September 18, 2007, a result that extended Chelsea’s winless run to three matches after Mourinho delivered a cryptic analogy on the eve of the match.
It turned out to be a parting shot at owner Roman Abramovich and his recruitment policy, when Mourinho said: “In the supermarket, you have eggs class one, class two, class three. Some are more expensive than others and some give you better omelettes. So when the class one eggs are in Waitrose and you cannot go there, you have a problem.”
Last season Chelsea infamously became the first holders to bow out of the Champions League in the group stage.
However, they responded by winning the Europa League – knocking off Wednesday’s opponents in the semi-finals on the way to the title – in a competition Mourinho has no interest in discovering this term.
The Portuguese boss has not guided a team in the Europa League since winning the competition with Porto in 2003, and he has no intention of resuming acquaintances now.
“I want to try to start the group phase by winning,” added Mourinho, who won the Champions League with Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan in 2010.
“Last season Chelsea went outside his natural habitat, which is the Champions League.
“Chelsea went out to a competition that is not Chelsea’s competition. We don’t want to do that again.
“It’s important for a team of kids. It’s very, very important for them to play on the big stage and the big stage is the Champions League.”
Winning the European Cup was an obsession for Chelsea and the one title that eluded Mourinho during his first stint in west London.
As Mourinho prepares to launch another assault on Europe with the Blues, he believes Basel will provide a tricky test, but he is unconcerned by the club’s worst start to a Premier League season in a decade.
“We’ve lost one match (at Everton last Saturday),” he said.
“It’s Champions League we start tomorrow, zero matches, zero points.
“I have to focus not in the past, I have to focus in the future.
“This is a different situation. Now we have to build a team full of talented players without the experience and without the football philosophy of working together for a long time.
“No obsession for me, no obsession for Chelsea, but I want to win for the third time, I want Chelsea to win for the second time and this is the beginning of a process with the Champions League.
“No dramas. Calm and no pressure, no problem.”