Jose Mourinho has already won two UEFA Champions League titles in his managerial career.
One with FC Porto in 2004, one with Inter Milan in 2010 and the Portuguese gaffer has guided Inter, Real Madrid and Chelsea to eight UCL semifinals in total, a record.
Ahead of his latest UCL semifinal, this time Atletico Madrid stand in his way, Mourinho may want to win this one more than most. This season the Champions League final is in Jose’s home country of Portugal for the first time since 1967. It will be against the team he just left acrimoniously last summer, Real Madrid, plus he wants to go down in history as the first manager to win three UCL titles with three different teams from three different countries. Only the great Liverpool manager Bob Paisley has won the European Cup on three occasions.
Can the self proclaimed ‘Special One’ guide his makeshift Chelsea side into the final and create history in the process?
Much has been made about Mourinho’s ‘anti-football’ tactics of late, as Chelsea ground out a 0-0 draw away at Atletico in the first leg of their UCL semi and then beat Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield last Sunday. The man from Setubal knows how to get results when it matters, that’s why he is one of, if not the best, manager in the world right now.
“If I want to win 1-0, I think I can. One of the easiest things in football is to win 1-0,” Mourinho said earlier this season.
With the series evenly balanced at 0-0 following the first leg at a feisty Vicente Calderon Stadium in Madrid, a 1-0 win would see Chelsea through to their third UCL final in club history. How will Mourinho’s men approach their dangerous opponents on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge?
Atleti has their own charismatic, opinionated and often broody manager: Diego Simeone. There will be a clash of Latin flair on the touchline in West London as both teams pride themselves on a blue collar image, yet also thrive off devastating counter attacks to finish off the opposition. The similarities are striking as Simeone has defended Mourinho’s defensive tactics before the clash after much hype in the media and the soccer community. That said, something has to give.
Mourinho and Chelsea can either shut up shop then pounce to punish Atletico on the break, or they can come flying out of the traps early on with the likes of Willian, Andre Schurrle and Eden Hazard doing the damage. Ramires, John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard and Nemanja Matic will be missing from midfield due to suspension and ineligibility, so that is where Mourinho will have a massive headache.
Rumors of veterans John Terry and Petr Cech rushing back from injury are filtering through. Both trained on Tuesday and on Sunday Mourinho admitted Terry could play against Atletico after previously ruling the duo out for the rest of the season. If those two could make the showdown, it would be a huge boost. As for Atletico, they’ll have Diego Costa primed and ready to sniff out any half chances Chelsea hand him as they stumble towards the Spanish league title. Their 1-0 win over Valencia last weekend was anything but convincing, yet the one thing Mourinho won’t be doing is underestimating the side from the Spanish capital. That is not his style.
Meticulous planning, breaking the game down minute-by-minute and making sure his troops are ready for every eventuality, Mourinho is this thorough for every game. However he’ll be desperate to make sure he hasn’t missed anything in his pregame preparation as he aims to reach his third UCL final as a boss, his first with Chelsea and book a trip back to his homeland to try and finish of the season in style. If Chelsea can negotiate their similarly well-drilled opponents from Madrid on Wednesday, they’ll face a showdown with Madrid’s other team, Real, who Jose knows well after managing them for three seasons.
A chance for revenge and an opportunity to scupper Real’s chances of UCL glory awaits; so does a shot at the only trophy Jose has never won at Chelsea. The scene is set for the ‘Special One’ to have a special night in the capital city of his homeland on May 24.
Can he set up a storybook finale?