Final whistle verdict: Step by step
news Wed 10 Dec 2014
Having watched his side return to the victory trail and finish our Champions League group six points clear, Jose Mourinho was pleased with the approach of his players to the task on Wednesday night when our progress into the knockout stage draw as one of the top seeds was already assured.
A crisp Andre Schurrle shot and a Cesc Fabregas penalty gave the Blues an early 2-0 lead against Sporting Lisbon, and although our opponents from the Portuguese capital pulled a goal back soon after the interval, John Mikel Obi’s first goal in European competition restored the cushion.
Mourinho had made six line-up changes from the weekend game at Newcastle…
‘We played seriously, we were strong and we deserved to win,’ he said.
‘The ones who are playing regularly, they faced the game in the right way. Those that don’t always play, they came in very well. When the game was 2-1 there could have been some emotion but when it went to 3-1 the game was over and the better side won.’
One player who was retained from the last outing was Diego Costa up front and Mourinho, true to his word, gave a debut to 18-year-old midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek close to the end…
‘Diego wants to improve his condition, the confidence was not high and the condition is not the best but he wanted to use the game to chase that,’ the manager said.
‘He had lots of runs, lots of movement, always wanting the ball and to associate with the wingers and Cesc Fabregas. I saw him better than against Newcastle or Sunderland and this game was important for him.
‘Ruben had very good personality, very positive, not afraid to play, not afraid to have the ball. He wanted to participate. It was only 10 minutes but he wanted to do it.
‘There was low level of responsibility because we were already qualified and the score was 3-1 but he showed immediately the quality that he has and everyone in the stadium got the feeling we have a kid with talent. So he has to keep working hard and hopefully the people around him don’t disturb the work we are doing with him.’
Mourinho and the team will discover our opponents for the first knockout round when the draw is made at 11am UK time on Monday morning…
‘We have five possible opponents and everyone is hard. People may think Basel is easy but we lost twice against them last year and they beat Liverpool and a few years ago they beat Man United, so I don’t think they are easy. Paris would be good because it is easy for us to travel and the fans to travel, but we can’t decide the draw.
‘I am happy Man City and Arsenal went through because I work in England and I care about the prestige of English football. We have also Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton in the Europa League so I wish them well too.
‘At the same time it is good for us if direct opponents in the Premier League are involved in European competitions. Man United are not, they have the same advantage Liverpool had last year in the Premier League and it is a big advantage.’
Chelsea finished as topscorers in the group stage with 17 goals, but Mourinho sees the results so far as having little bearing on what is to follow in the completion…
‘I’m not speaking about big clubs, I am speaking about big teams and I don’t think any of the big teams are out of the Champions League now except maybe Liverpool. All the teams that want to win the competition are in and season after season you repeat this - there is one team that does badly and goes out but everyone else is in the last 16.
‘So the real Champions League starts now. Last season we were not one of the top four teams for sure but we played in the semi-final. Let’s see what we can do this season step by step.’