Chelsea edged out last-place Steaua Bucharest to a 1-0 win in their final Champions League group stage, sealing their place at the top of the group. And as they prepare for the knockout stage of the tournament, manager Jose Mourinho is claiming they have accomplished their mission of not having the chance to defend the Europa League title they won under interim manager Rafa Benitez last season.
Back in July, Mourinho made his European intentions clear. "I don't want to win the Europa League," he said. "It would be a big disappointment for me. I don't want my players to feel the Europa League is our competition." Though Benitez didn't have much to do with Chelsea dropping down to the Europa League, Mourinho's comments were an attempt to classify his old foe as small time. And now, with Benitez heading back to the Europa League with heartbroken Napoli, Mourinho is at it again.
From the AFP:
In the circumstances, maybe it wasn’t a surprise that he was coy when asked what his targets were for the current squad, opting instead for a less than subtle dig at his Chelsea predecessor Rafael Benitez, an old enemy of Mourinho, who won the Europa League during his spell as interim boss last season.
“The only target was to not win the Europa League again and that target is done,” Mourinho.
“Now we have to do the best we can in the Champions League. In the Premier League I think the first target is to ensure we finish in the top four.” [...]
“We have to grow up step by step. We go now to matches that are new to some of my players,” Mourinho said.
“Some of my players didn’t play any games in the knockout stages of the Champions League. They have played group stages and the Europa League. It will be a different scenario for them."
Though Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012 under Roberto Di Matteo and many key players are still in the squad from that campaign, Mourinho seems concerned about the younger players that have become important parts of the team since then. But no matter what from here on out, one thing is certain: Jose Mourinho will continue to point out that he is in the Champions League and Rafa Benitez is not.
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