Mourinho defiant: “No way I resign. There’s nobody better than me”

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LONDON — With the bright lights of Stamford Bridge shinning down on Jose Mourinho, the Portuguese boss watched on in disbelief as Chelsea’s dramatic collapse continued with a 3-1 defeat to Southampton on Saturday.

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That loss signaled the Blues’ fourth defeat in eight Premier League games this season, and with fans booing his decisions, off-the-field incidents with Eva Carneiro dominating headlines and the reigning PL champs now 10 points off top spot, the pressure is building on Mourinho.

[ MORE: Mourinho – “If they want to sack me… sack me” ]

When speaking to the media afterwards, the 52-year-old was in a typically defiant mood and insisted he will not resign and leave Chelsea in the lurch.

“No way I resign. No way,” Mourinho said. “Why? Because Chelsea cannot have a better manager than me. There are many managers in the world that belong to my level, but not better. There is no chance I run away. Why? For two reasons. One: because I have my professional pride and I know that I am very good in my job. Second: I like this club very much and if that’s not the case it could be different. In the accumulation of both situations I want the best for my club and the best for my club is for me to stay. So, I stay.

“When we were champions I said ‘I am going to stay until the owner and the board want me to leave.’ No club can persuade me to leave. No financial offer can persuade me to leave. I am going to stay until the day the owner or the board tell me: ‘Jose, that’s enough.’ I said that when I was champion and I say that when I am 16th in the table. No chance I resign.”

Those words came after Mourinho had gone on an incredible seven-minute rant to TV cameras following the game, as he tried to deflect his players from criticism by complaining about penalty decisions not going the way of his team. But there is no way he can cover up the sheer ineptitude of Chelsea’s defensive performance. He knows it, and admitted several of his players are in a bad place with regards to their form and are “fragile” mentally as Southampton became the first team to score three times in a PL game at Stamford Bridge in the Mourinho era. Mourinho’s Chelsea lost just once at home in the PL during his first five season in charge. This season they have lost two of their first four home games, with Crystal Palace and Saints plunging the Blues into their worst moment under Mourinho. So where is it going wrong? How is this all unraveling so quickly?

Defense — an area Mourinho prides himself on as they had the best defensive record in the PL last season and he is revered as a defensive tactical genius — has been a huge issue for “The Special One” and after he recalled captain John Terry to the starting lineup (he had been dropped to the bench for four of the last five games), Terry and Gary Cahill were ripped apart by the pace of Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle‘s power. In truth, Saints were sensational but this isn’t the first time (and probably won’t be the last time) Chelsea will be ripped apart this season. Theorists suggested before the season began that Mourinho would suffer from his “third-season syndrome” something which has kept him moving from club-to-club in the past. His hot-headed approach often sees him fall out with players, staff and directors and means he will never be able to sustain success and be a legendary figure at one club for more than a few seasons. Right now, those theorists will be having a field day. But it’s not all Mourinho’s fault. His players are letting him down. Badly.

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Players like Terry, Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic, Nemanja Matic (who was subbed out midway through the second half despite coming on at half time), Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard are the most noticeable who are lacking in form and confidence. Mourinho admitted that moving forward he will give youngsters like Ruben Loftus-Cheek a chance to shine but stopped short of blaming his senior players for getting Chelsea in this shocking position in the first place. He didn’t need to admit it. It is clear for everyone to see Chelsea’s squad is in a dark place as their incredible collapse continues.

In this dark hour, Mourinho called for Chelsea’s board to back him, for stability to return to the Bridge and for everyone to work together despite a shocking run of results to open up their title defense. He admitted winning the title would be tough this season, and with Chelsea currently 10 points off top spot, it’s easy to agree with that. He did refuse to rule out a top four finish and called on Chelsea’s directors to change their ways after ruthless sackings of managers in the past for dips in form nowhere near as bad as the one he’s currently enduring.

“When I was contacted to come back, I was told ‘we had so many managers. We know you are the best,'” Mourinho revealed. “I think it is time for the club to act in a different way, to mark a position of stability, a position of trust. Three months ago we were all together in the buzz of the cups. It is time for all of us to be together now in the bottom of the league.”

Eight weeks into the 2015-16 Premier League season, nobody expected Chelsea’s title charge to be over. It is. Nobody expected Mourinho to be under pressure and for his future at Chelsea to be in jeopardy. It is.

Rankings the comeback potential of Champions League sides

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Maybe Group H of the UEFA Champions League was very soft.

Chelsea and Valencia are in massive holes after 90 minutes of the Round of 16, and third-place Ajax is a 2-0 hole in its Europa League tie.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The other six teams’ disadvantages after one leg range from tricky to barely existent.

Let’s rate which teams have the best chances to climb back and earn a spot in the quarterfinals.

8. Chelsea (down 3-0 to Bayern Munich after home leg)

Robert Lewandowski’s injury hurts the Bavarians, but not three goals worth of hurt. And Serge Gnabry has been the one sounding death knells for London clubs.

7. Valencia (down 4-1 to Atalanta after away leg)

The away goal combined with the Serie A side’s relative inexperience in the competition gives Valencia a bit more hope than Chelsea.

6. Napoli (level at 1 with Barcelona after home leg)

On the plus side, Gennaro Gattuso’s men are level. That said, they allowed an away goal to Barca and have to go to the Camp Nou against a side yearning to make better UCL memories.

5. Real Madrid (down 2-1 to Man City after home leg)

Who knows what Pep Guardiola will launch at the Etihad Stadium, but giving him two away goals and a lead opens up his playbook? As for Zinedine Zidane, it was all so one dimensional at the Bernabeu. What’s he have cooking?

4. Tottenham Hotspur (down 1-0 to RB Leipzig after home leg)

Spurs have better UEL experience than their second leg hosts, though the striker problems looms over Jose Mourinho’s plans.

3. Liverpool (down 1-0 to Atletico Madrid after away leg)

It’s easy to imagine the Reds’ rebounding, and even Atleti will doubt its potential to keep Liverpool off the scoreboard at Anfield.

2. Paris Saint-Germain (down 2-1 to Borussia Dortmund after away leg)

Dortmund’s allowed plenty of goals this season, and PSG’s attack is stacked.

1. Juventus (down 1-0 to Lyon after away leg)

It’s difficult to imagine Juve playing as poor as they did Wednesday when they head back to Turin. The Old Lady knew something was wrong in warm-ups. They’ll address it, but can they keep Lyon off the board?

 

Europa League preview: Arsenal, Wolves, Man Utd look to advance

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Fifteen places remain up for grabs in the Europa League’s Round of 16 after Steven Gerrard’s Rangers handled Braga in Wednesday’s lone second leg.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Notable names Porto, Benfica, and Ajax enter their second legs with hills to climb, while the three Premier League teams have varying degrees of advantage.

Manchester United v. Club Brugge

United enters the second leg at Old Trafford with an away goal advantage after the 1-1 draw in Belgium.

Luke Shaw says the Red Devils are driven by a desire to play for silverware, and the UEL joins the FA Cup as their lone opportunities to claim trophies this year.

“It is a massive ambition for me,” said Shaw, via The Manchester Evening News. “I was there for the Europa League final, and the feeling, even though I wasn’t on the pitch, was a feeling I have not felt and I wanted more of. I wasn’t involved and that is what is pushing me on even more to get into this final, and others. We should be in finals and we should be in all competitions until the end. We are very confident at the moment.”

Arsenal v. Olympiacos

The Gunners claimed a 1-0 result in Greece, and know a draw will be enough to bring Mikel Arteta‘s men to the Round of 16.

The manager was asked what’s different about his Gunners, now back in contention to qualify for Europe via the Premier League table.

“I think the team is progressing well, the club is in a better place,” Arteta said, via Football.London. “We are getting much more unity on the sections of the club and as well a great energy back from the fans every time we play at the Emirates and away from the Emirates. There are a lot of positive things but there are still things to improve individually, collectively and as a club and we are in that process at the moment.”

Espanyol v. Wolves

Wolves rang up a four-goal advantage at the Molineux, and that may give Nuno Espirito Santo a chance to use his depth for a rare time this season.

The boss has counted on players like Conor Coady, Rui Patricio, and Raul Jimenez in all tournaments, and he admits that it’s worn on the squad.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve not suffered,” said Espirito Santo via Wolves’ site. “It’s been tough with a tight schedule, very demanding on the players and I think the credit is on them – the way they compete, the way they prepare themselves to compete, but it’s tough, very tough. … The credit is for the players, it’s for the staff, but the players buying, believing and working very hard, is what makes things go well.”

Look out for Diogo Jota if he plays; The Wolves star has five goals in his past two matches.

Thursday’s second legs

12:55 p.m. ET kickoffs
Istanbul Basaksehir (1-3) v. Sporting Lisbon
Gent (0-1) v. Roma
Malmo (1-2) v. Wolfsburg
LASK (1-1) v. AZ Alkmaar
Porto (1-2) v. Bayer Leverkusen
Espanyol (0-4) v. Wolves
Basel (3-0) v. APOEL Nicosia

3 p.m. ET
Manchester United (1-1) v. Club Brugge
Celtic (1-1) v. Copenhagen
Benfica (1-2) v. Shakhtar Donetsk
Red Bull Salzburg (1-4) v. Eintracht Frankfurt
Inter Milan (2-0) v. Ludogorets Razgrad
Ajax (0-2) v. Getafe
Sevilla (1-1) v. CFR Cluj
Arsenal (1-0) v. Olympiacos

Juventus ‘could tell something wasn’t switched on’ in Lyon

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Juventus’ obsession with winning another European Cup has the club on edge after a 1-0 first leg loss to Lyon on Wednesday in the first leg of the Round of 16.

Stalwart defender Leonardo Bonucci, defender Danilo, and manager Maurizio Sarri were less than pleased with the performance.

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Bonucci was spotted yelling at substitute midfielder Blaise Matuidi in warm-ups, and that was a prelude to a poor performance from most of the team.

“I didn’t tell Matuidi off, I told him the team includes those who are on the bench and we must all be ready to contribute,” Bonucci said, via Football-Italia. “I could tell something wasn’t switched on with the XI starters either. We’ve got to sort this out, as these are the things that make the difference.”

Sarri, the system man, is quite upset with his players after what he said was a lightning-fast training session on Tuesday.

“I don’t know why, I cannot get the players to understand the importance of moving the ball quickly,” said the flummoxed ex-Chelsea man. “This is fundamental, we’ll keep working on it and sooner or later this concept will get into their heads.”

Sarri was happier with the ball movement in the second half, and will expect Juve to do the same in its home second leg.

Danilo had a decent day in the loss. He didn’t sugar coat the performance.

“We cannot just gift the first half to the opposition in such an important tournament. We are aware that we did that and need to work harder,” Danilo said.

Guardiola ‘so proud’ of Man City comeback; KDB, Jesus react to tactics

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Pep Guardiola was grinning widely after his tactical moves set up Manchester City in a 2-1 comeback win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

“I’m so proud,” Guardiola said. “This is the first step. It’s not over. We can enjoy the moment.”

Why wouldn’t he be smiling? Guardiola became the first manager to win Champions League games at the Bernabeu with two different teams, and did it during one of the most controversial periods in club history.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

What was different? Well, Guardiola played Kevin De Bruyne as a sort of second striker and took center forward Gabriel Jesus and deployed him as a left-sided midfielder.

“In the four years we are here with Pep, sometimes there are some surprises,” De Bruyne said. “Even the players don’t really know before the game starts what we need to do. Some were good. We had some lesser moments but in a quality game like this you’re gonna struggle but we fought really well together.”

Jesus had it even weirder, playing as a sort of left midfielder or even wingback with plenty of responsibility going back and forward.

The Brazilian said he has some experience playing wide, but — again — you have to be ready for the full Pep Guardiola experience.

“I can remember my time in the Palmeiras academy and I play like a winger and then become a striker,” he said. “But I go to the pitch to help my team-mates. It doesn’t matter if I have to run back or forwards. I have to help my team-mates. We are learning a lot. We have to play different positions sometimes.”

Guardiola knows the second leg is going to be tough, as Real will put everything into attack.

“When we were better, we conceded a goal,” Guardiola said, via the BBC. “When they were better, we scored a goal. That’s football. I remember the quarterfinal a few seasons ago at Anfield when we played incredibly well and they scored all their shots on target.”

Real will be without center back Sergio Ramos, who was sent off late, while Man City could be missing its best center back. Aymeric Laporte subbed off in the first half.