Jose Mourinho would have smiled after watching Manchester United stumble against Celtic last night.
For most Premiership teams, the prospect of facing United after they’ve been beaten is not a pleasant one. But Chelsea are champions, and they know that United will treat them differently than, say, Blackburn.
It doesn’t matter if it’s an away game for Chelsea and a home game for United. It doesn’t even matter that United have one extra day to rest, and that they’ve come away from Parkhead without any injuries.
Chelsea will play Werder Bremen knowing that they have an upper hand against United, and a win against Bremen will put them in as favourites going into the Sunday clash – arguably a reverse of the situation on the previous weekend.
There’s another factor for Chelsea to consider, and that’s Barcelona. Bremen are in with an outside chance of progressing instead of Barcelona if they can beat Chelsea at home and then Barcelona away. Seeing as Barcelona should win their next two CL games easily, there’s no point in Chelsea entertaining the thought of a draw or fielding a weakened team against Bremen.
“I only play to lose when I play against my kids, because I want them to be happy. After that football is to win – friendlies, Champions League, Premiership.”
Good quote for the media, but it must be a tempting thought for Chelsea that they have a chance of eliminating one of their biggest rivals to the CL title.
I think, that if a loss for Chelsea tonight meant that Bremen were guaranteed 2nd place and Chelsea 1st place, Mourinho would have considered throwing the game. This is not meant as a personal attack on Mourinho’s values, or even Chelsea’s values. But it’s a tactical game, and if Chelsea have a shot at making life easier for themselves, why wouldn’t they?
But it’s not going to happen – Barcelona are still favourites to qualify, Chelsea need a win to put more pressure on Manchester United and Chelsea are 2nd, not 1st (with a big lead) in the Premiership.
Mourinho, on Sunday’s game and Howard Webb’s appointment as the match official:
“He looks for me a very solid referee. He is the kind of referee that normally gets the big decisions of the match correct.”
Let’s hope he does.
But first, there’s the small matter of dismissing Bremen and winning the first battle in the title war against United.