Chelsea Training and Press Conference

Is Jose Mourinho set for a date with destiny?

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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.

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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?

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If Chelsea make it to the final, Mourinho will face his old club Real Madrid.

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?

Spurs’ Bentaleb off to Schalke on loan, joining PSG’s Stambouli

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 18: Nabil Bentaleb of Spurs U21 looks on during the Barclays U21 Premier League match between Leicester City U21 and Tottenham Hotspurs U21 at The King Power Stadium on March 18, 2016 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Schalke’s quest to rejoin Germany’s elite was buttressed by a pair of interesting pickups on Thursday.

The Royal Blues have added Benjamin Stambouli from Paris Saint-Germain and Nabil Bentaleb from Tottenham Hotspur.

The Bentaleb deal is a loan, as the oft-injured attacker looks to shake off his underperforming reputation. The 21-year-old has 19 caps and three goals for Algeria.

[ MORE: Boufal to Saints ]

Stambouli joins on a four-year deal. A defensive midfielder, Stambouli left Spurs for PSG last year and made 27 appearances for the French champions.

The side nabbed high-profile prospect Breel Embolo earlier this offseason, and should be a problem for most opposing sides when the season begins this weekend.

Schalke finished in fifth place last Bundesliga season, and brings back captain Benedikt Howedes and Olympic star Max Meyer.

Ranking toughness of UCL groups for Leicester, Arsenal, Tottenham, Man City

Kompany and City's defense struggled to contain Messi and Barca in the first half.
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Leicester City, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City all entered the UEFA Champions League at the group stage and they found out their fate on Thursday following the draw in Monaco.

[ MORE: UCL group stage draw ]

Right now Leicester, Arsenal and Spurs will be feeling pretty good about their chances of advancing to the UCL’s Round of 16. As for Man City, boy, it will be a tough route through the group stage once again for them.

[ MORE: Ronaldo wins top award ]

Below is a look at the toughness of the group stage draw for all four PL teams.


GROUP G: Leicester City, FC Porto, Club Brugge, Copenhagen

Their first-ever season in the UCL, the draw could not have gone any better for reigning PL champs Leicester in terms of their dreams of advancing. Claudio Ranieri‘s side have FC Porto, who will be a very tough test, but in Club Brugge and Copenhagen they drew two of the easier teams they could have faced. Overall, this is not a tough group especially when you see the full draw. Looks like the fairytale for the Foxes will go deep in the Champions League this season. Toughness ranking: 3/10


GROUP A: Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, FC Basel, Ludogorets

Arsenal will fancy their chances against PSG and when it comes to FC Basel and Ludrogorets they will expect to take two wins from each of these teams. But this is Arsenal so they’ll probably need a 3-0 win in their last group game to make the knockout rounds… Seriously, though, Arsene Wenger will be a relieved man to avoid the likes of Bayern Munich and Barelona in the group stage but Arsenal’s games against PSG will be pivotal in their chances of getting a good draw in the last 16. Overall, could’ve been a lot tougher. Toughness ranking: 4/10


GROUP C: FC Barcelona, Manchester City, Borussia Monchendgladbach, Celtic

It just had to happen for Pep Guardiola, didn’t it? He will return to the Nou Camp in his debut season at City to face his beloved Barcelona and Man City’s fans will be sick of the sight of Lionel Messi and Co. after they knocked them out of the competition in two of the last three seasons. That said, there will be two magnificent games between the giants with Barca the favorites to win the UCL this season. As for Monchengladbach, they are quietly a very strong team and even Celtic (who famously beat Barca in the group stage in 2012) will provide a tough challenge for City at Celtic Park in the away game. All in all, couldn’t have been tougher for City but they will likely squeeze through with Barca to the Round of 16.

Toughness ranking: 8/10


GROUP E: CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham Hotspur, Monaco

Maurcio Pochettino’s side will be grinning like a Cheshire cat with this draw. Arguably it is even easier than Leicester’s with CSKA Moscow perennial strugglers in the UCL, plus German side Bayer Leverkusen very beatable and Spurs have done well against Monaco in the Europa League recently. Overall, if Spurs don’t win this group they will be very disappointed. A great draw for the north London club. Toughness ranking: 3/10


Best Player in Europe: Cristiano Ronaldo beats Bale, Griezmann to win award

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 10:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal kisses the Henri Delaunay trophy to celebrate after their 1-0 win against France in the UEFA EURO 2016 Final match between Portugal and France at Stade de France on July 10, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
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Cristiano Ronaldo was named the Best Player in Europe by UEFA on Thursday in Monaco, following the group stage draw for the UEFA Champions League.

Ronaldo, 31, beat other finalists teammate and Welsh international Gareth Bale and France and Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann to the award for the 2015-16 season. Barcelona duo Lionel Messi came fourth and Luis Suarez finished in fifth.

[ MORE: UCL group stage draw ]

The Portuguese striker scored 51 goals in 48 games for Real Madrid last season and led Portugal to its first-ever major title as a nation, winning the EURO 2016 trophy.

Ronaldo said on stage that he was “living his dream” by playing football as he won the award for a second time in his career, the list title coming in 2014.

Previous winners of this prestigious award, which takes into account the form of the player both for this club team in Europe and also for his national team, include Messi (the only other player to win the award twice), Andres Iniesta and Franck Ribery.

UEFA Champions League group stage: Premier League teams learn their fate

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 28:  The  UEFA Champions League trophy is displayed prior to the UEFA Champions League Final match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 28, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Premier League teams got off very lightly, overall, in the UEFA Champions League group stage draw.

The draw took place in Monaco on Thursday as reigning Leicester City were handed a very comfy group of opponents in Group G with FC Porto, Club Brugge and Copenhagen, as were Tottenham Hotspur who were placed in Group E with CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco.

Arsenal also got a very decent draw with Paris Saint-Germain, FC Basel and Ludogorets in Group A, but Manchester City once again got a very tough draw at the group stage along with FC Barcelona, Borussia Monchengladbach and Celtic in Group C.

[ MORE: Full UCL schedule

Reigning champs Real Madrid have been drawn in Group F alongside Borussia Dortmund, Sporting Lisbon and Legia Warsaw, with Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid drawn together in Group D.

Below is the group stage draw in full with the opening group games to take place on Sept. 13/14 and a further five group games taking place — each team plays one another home and away — between September and December. The knockout stages then begin in February 2017 ahead of the UCL final in Cardiff, Wales on June 3, 2017.

You can click on the link above for the full schedule for group games.


GROUP A
Paris Saint-Germain
Arsenal
FC Basel
Ludogorets

GROUP B
Benfica
Napoli
Dynamo Kiev
Besiktas

GROUP C
FC Barcelona
Manchester City
Borussia Monchendgladbach
Celtic

GROUP D
Bayern Munich
Atletico Madrid
PSV Eindhoven
Rostov

GROUP E
CSKA Moscow
Bayer Leverkusen
Tottenham Hotspur
Monaco

GROUP F
Real Madrid
Borussia Dortmund
Sporting Lisbon
Legia Warsaw

GROUP G
Leicester City
FC Porto
Club Brugge
Copenhagen

GROUP H
Juventus
Sevilla
Lyon
Dinamo Zagreb