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Mourinho likes Chelsea's chances to knock off PSG

Updated: 2014-04-02 08:39
By agence france-presse in London ( China Daily)

Plenty at stake for both sides in first leg of quarterfinal tie

Jose Mourinho has ruled his Chelsea side out of the Premier League title race, but he believes it will bounce back from domestic disappointment against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday.

The Chelsea manager questioned his players' mentality after a surprise 1-0 loss at Crystal Palace led to it being knocked out of the top spot in the Premier League by Liverpool.

Mourinho loves to play mind games, but with Manchester City poised to leapfrog the Blues by winning its games in hand, it may be true that Chelsea's best chance of silverware now lies with the Champions League.

And the Portuguese insists his team will rise to the occasion as it faces the Ligue 1 champion-elect at Parc des Princes in the first leg of their quarterfinal tie.

"Paris is the kind of match they feel comfortable to play," Mourinho said of his squad before crossing the channel.

"A big match, great stadium, opponents with top quality."

Despite that, he said the tie is finely poised, with PSG having emerged as a leading continental force in the past two years, spending astronomical sums to attract the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Brazil captain Thiago Silva to France.

"They have some of the best players in the world so they are a very powerful team," Mourinho said of the side which lost on away goals to Barcelona at the same stage last season.

"They are big, big, big candidates."

While Mourinho is driven by the desire to become the first coach to win the European Cup with three different clubs following previous triumphs with Porto in 2004 and Inter in 2010, Ibrahimovic is still aiming to win the greatest prize in club soccer for the first time.

But, at the age of 32, the Swede seems to have belatedly reached his prime, with his tally of 40 goals in all competitions this season breaking the PSG club record.

If the consensus in England seems to be Ibrahimovic always disappoints at the highest level, Mourinho, who coached the maverick striker at Inter in 2008-09, thinks rather differently.

"I only coached him for a year - but it was a good year, a good experience and I rate him as one of the best players I have ever coached," he said.

PSG has not lost in 28 home European games and is on a club record-breaking run of nine straight wins in all competitions. It is running away with the Ligue 1 title, 13 points ahead of nearest challenger Monaco.

PSG was some way short of its best in Friday's 1-0 triumph at Nice, but coach Laurent Blanc said the team's thoughts were already focused on Chelsea.

"We can say the players were already thinking about Chelsea. On Wednesday we will need to do better," said Blanc, who was a player at Barcelona in the late 1990s when Mourinho was on the staff at Camp Nou.

"The best preparation (for Chelsea) was to win and, while we didn't play brilliantly against Nice, we got the result. Sometimes there are games like that."

Blanc hopes his side is able to raise its game against the London club as PSG seeks to live up to the sky-high expectations surrounding it inside France, where there is a growing belief it can go all the way and lift the trophy in Lisbon in May.

Just as Chelsea was transformed after being taken over by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich a decade ago, the arrival of Qatar Sports Investments has made PSG capable of competing with Europe's very best.

The squad stands to earn a bonus of 1 million euros ($1.38 million) per man from the ownership group if it wins the trophy.

Silva will sport a mask to protect a fractured cheekbone but Gregory van der Wiel is unlikely to play due to a nagging knee problem so Christophe Jallet is set to play at rightback.

For Chelsea, Mourinho said he expects Samuel Eto'o to miss the game because of a hamstring injury, and Nemanja Matic is ineligible.

(China Daily 04/02/2014 page23)