Struggling Chelsea need Mourinho to be the Special One again
Special One must find his old self to arrest the Blues' slide
PORTO v CHELSEA
(Tomorrow, 2.30am, Singtel TV Ch 112 & StarHub TV Ch 212)
The old Jose Mourinho has left the building. He's gone, replaced by the hunchback of notable doubts.
This imposter crouches in the dugout, his slumped shoulders buried beneath an ill-fitting overcoat, unshaven and unkempt and looking for all the world like he should have a begging bowl before him.
His body is present, but the soul is homeless. This is not the Mourinho of old or even the recent present.
This is a grumpy old man always angry with the people and places around him.
The scowl is locked; his cheeky smile a distant memory.
Chelsea's miserable manager should be returning to Porto tomorrow morning (Singapore time) as the homecoming hero.
Instead he's a desperate man in search of himself.
Ordinarily, there would be many other obvious plot points in Chelsea's second Champions League game.
Disgraced at home but permitted to play in Europe, Diego Costa returns to wreak havoc.
Mourinho also meets an architect of his Real Madrid downfall. Iker Casillas faces his nemesis fully aware that his status at the Bernabeu was tarnished once Mourinho took on Casillas' clique in the dressing room.
Their La Liga careers were never quite the same again.
And Mourinho goes home for the third time in the Champions League since winning the trophy with his countrymen in 2004.
That triumph made him the Special One.
But his defeatist attitude, which hangs in the air better than Chelsea's back four, reveals just a man, and a deeply unhappy one at that.
The sub-plots can be window dressing only when the pane is already cracked.
Mourinho is in a mess. He betrayed his deep dissatisfaction with a throwaway quote that caught his audience off guard.
"I sat there trying to work out what was best for the team and had so many doubts," he said after the shambolic 2-2 draw against Newcastle on Saturday.
Self-doubt must be kryptonite to Mourinho. His milestones were all carved from his granite-like self-belief.
Much like his British managerial heroes, Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Robson, he could make a little go a long way; take Porto to the European summit, guide Inter Milan to the Treble with a solid first 11 but an uneven squad and lead Chelsea to domestic glory with just three handpicked purchases.
But Robson's roguish wit and Ferguson's motivational drive have deserted him.
He ignored the first lesson of Management 101 and castigated his charges after the Newcastle game, at a time when confidence had obviously been decimated.
He rated the performance as "minus one", choosing not to focus on the fightback as he might have done in the past. He insisted that at least six of the line-up deserved an early shower.
Internal criticism was once softened with a quirky sound-bite or a sarcastic comment about the officials, or the weather, or Arsene Wenger, or anything that might deflect attention from a poor performance.
Instead, the sense of humour has given way to spiteful cynicism.
Mourinho appears less happy now than he was when he actually quit the club in 2007, presumably because he knows that this time around, he has nowhere else to go. The other pools already have generous stocks of big fish.
He's stuck in his drying puddle, seemingly unable to stop the drought.
Against Newcastle, he had nothing up his sleeve but substitutions. Admittedly, they were timely changes, the introductions of Willian and Ramires radically improved Chelsea's complexion, but it was all a little half-hearted.
Despite the successful tweaks, the hunched, dejected Mourinho still came across as an ageing, depressed comedian, capable of throwing out a couple of one-liners to hide the inner turmoil. But the spark had gone.
Where's the irrepressible, hand-waving, touchline-sprinting guy who actively relished tactical battles with his rivals, overcoming both an inferior first 11 and a bad dose of the flu to take down Brendan Rodgers' title challenge?
When the electric presence vanishes from the dugout, the Blues switch off.
Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fabregas, Oscar and even Eden Hazard are replicating their manager's inertia, bereft of both inspiration and energy.
Poor Pedro Rodriguez bought into the Mourinho myth only to find a sad old man who struggles to get excited about anything, other than slagging off Wenger.
Like his manager, the Spaniard is a shadow of his former self.
Uncertainty is contagious. The only Chelsea employee devoid of self-doubt sits on the bench.
As John Terry watched his bumbling back four concede twice at Newcastle, he must have struggled to recognise his jittery, unimaginative team.
But then, he could probably say the same about his manager.
I am very concerned. I do not understand it and I do not accept it. I wanted to make six substitutions. That is how bad we were. When you have so many bad individual performances, it’s impossible for a team to be a team.
— Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho after the 2-2 EPL draw with Newcastle
Lopetegui out to spoil Jose's return
Porto will not be affected by the return of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho to his former club or his reunion with goalkeeper Iker Casillas as they prepare for their Champions League meeting tomorrow morning (Singapore time), according to coach Julen Lopetegui.
Mourinho, 52, enjoyed a successful two-year spell with Porto earlier in his career, during which he twice lifted the Portuguese championship before winning the club's second Champions League title in 2004.
He returns to the Estadio do Dragao tomorrow morning for a Group G clash as Chelsea aim to improve on a poor performance in their 2-2 draw at Newcastle United in the Premier League on Saturday.
"I don't think about comparing myself to him," Lopetegui said yesterday. "I have respect for a coach who was absolutely everything to this club and in this country. I have respect, but we want to win tomorrow."
He added: "The past is history, it has passed. Chelsea are a top team, with world-class players, but we have great ambition and want to win. They are a strong team and will require our all."
Porto's former Real Madrid goalkeeper Casillas does not have a warm relationship with the Chelsea boss, following the troubled time they shared together at the Bernabeu.
The two men will meet again as Casillas is set for his 152nd Champions League outing, which would break Xavi Hernandez's record for the most appearances in the competition.
"(Casillas and Mourinho) doesn't matter," said Lopetegui. "The game and the competition demand the maximum of us, these issues (surrounding the club's former coach and player) are more important to (the media)."
Porto defender Maicon heaped praise on Casillas.
"He is a beautiful player and a great colleague. He's humble, hardworking and ambitious. He came at the right time to the right place."
Lopetegui also dismissed the suggestion that Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz - who has previously been praised by Mourinho - will show any bias towards Chelsea.
"If he is a close friend of Mourinho, that doesn't worry us," said Lopetegui. "He's a great referee, and everything else is irrelevant." - Reuters.
BY THE NUMBERS
If Porto goalkeeper Iker Casillas plays tomorrow, he will break close friend Xavi Hernandez's appearance record of 151 games in Europe's premier club competition. He had made 150 of those appearances as a Real Madrid player spanning 16 seasons.