Jose Mourinho looking to improve his “beautiful, young eggs”

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Ahead of Chelsea’s Champions League opener against FC Basle tomorrow night, manager Jose Mourinho has analogized his side to a group of unhatched eggs.

When asked about the type of players on his squad, 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 blanket and work and improve them.”

Mourinho, affectionately known as “Daddy” to players like Michael Essein, believes that over time his squad’s talent will produce.

“One day the moment will arrive when the weather changes, the sun rises, you break the eggs and the eggs are ready to go for life at the top level.”

The analogy is eerily similar to the one Mourinho made in advance of a Champions League match against Rosenborg in 2007. “It’s all about omelets and eggs. No eggs, no omelette. And it depends on the quality of the eggs.” Chelsea went on to draw that match 1-1 and 24 hours later, Mourinho left the club.

Mourinho’s comments on Tuesday serve to temper expectations at Stamford Bridge after his side, along with Manchester United and Manchester City, entered the season odds on favorites to win the Premier League and compete for a Champions League title.

But for all the pre-season hype, Chelsea have yet to display 90 minutes of championship caliber form. The Blues were fantastic in the first half of their 2-0 victory over Hull City but in the 315 minutes of play since then have yet to duplicate that level of hyper-charged football.

The lack of form can in part be attributed to a rotating cast of characters throughout the attack. In midfield, only Eden Hazard and Ramires have managed to keep their starting spot through the first four matches of the Premier League. Despite not starting against Everton, Frank Lampard remains Ramires’ preferred partner in the midfield pivot while Oscar is typically fielded alongside Hazard.

The remaining two attacking midfield positions and the lone striker role, however, appear to be up for grabs.

Kevin De Bruyne looked solid in the season opener before struggling against Manchester United. Andre Schurrle has shown signs of quality but struggled last weekend, spurning four clear-cut goal-scoring opportunities. Juan Mata, who has been carrying a minor knock, has been used only twice with rumors persisting that he doesn’t fit into Mourinho’s scheme.

Up top, no go-to striker has emerged among the trio of Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Samuel Eto’o although the Cameroonian striker looks the favorite to own the role.

There’s little doubt that finding the right combination of players will take time. Yet fortunately for Mourinho, he’s inherited a squad with 12 members from the 2012 Champions League side. Experience matters.

French league terminates goal-line technology contract

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PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

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The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga