By having a quick mull over Jose Mourinho’s managerial career to date it’s easy to see that he’s a man who doesn’t like to be outdone, outclassed or well-beaten by anyone in football.
His ego-centric nature, which admittedly has been far more stifled since his second coming at Stamford Bridge, doesn’t allow him to be content unless his side are dominating all before them. It doesn’t even regularly allow for him to accept that others have truly excelled where he has failed to do so.
Mourinho on Chelsea's triumph
Take his recent comments on Chelsea’s Champions League triumph under Roberto Di Matteo in the 2011/12 final. "The Champions League I say many, many times is not a consequence of a great work. You can win the Champions League in the worst season,” was what he had to say on arguably the Blues’ biggest achievement in their 109-year-long history.
Though he wasn’t actively slating Di Matteo’s ability to do what he could not with Chelsea, you get the feeling he wouldn’t hold it in the same regard as the Premier League glory he brought to the club in 2005; the one that ended the 50 year wait for league honours.
It’s no coincidence that that feeling is accompanied by one that implies he would have exacted exceptional pleasure in his side’s 5-0 win over Di Matteo’s Schalke 04 in the Champions League last night.
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The Special One's arsenal
Don’t get me wrong, Mourinho’s competitive nature isn’t a blotch on his resume, if anything it’s more the reason why he has a trophy-cabinet laden with silverware; the sort most managers can’t hope to collect in a lifetime. It’s also one of the reasons why he’ll be fully aware that this season presents the Blues with a very good opportunity to win Europe’s most prestigious prize.
The Special One will smell blood given Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the season, and woe betide anyone who tries to tell him he’s ill-equipped to replicate Di Matteo’s feat from almost three year’s ago. His team aren’t just flying the flag for England on the continent; they’re the only hope English football has.
At the beginning of the season the neutral masses would have been fairly divided when it came to picking which representative to put their faith behind in the Champions League.
Arsenal looked set to attack with renewed vigour thanks to the additions of Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez, Manchester City were naturally going to turn their attentions to European conquests this campaign and old favourites Liverpool were back in the mix after a hiatus so lengthy their fans had almost forgot what it felt like to welcome foreign opponents to Anfield on a week night.
And yet now, with the group stages fast approaching their frenetic climax, it’s impossible to look past Chelsea when it comes to Premier League sides capable of mixing it with Europe’s very best.
Liverpool have so many issues domestically it’s difficult to see how Rodgers can hope to save face with the remaining group games his side have left, and the chances of them qualifying look as though they rest on FC Basel falling apart in the last two games. If they do then the Reds could squeak through, if they don’t then Rodgers will be vying to win the Europa League this term, not the competition's illustrious elder sibling.
As for Arsenal they already look to have done enough to claim their regular spot in the last 16, though once again it would take a brave man to bet on them going any further. As has been evidenced virtually any time they’ve come up against top sides this year they don’t possess the same mettle as the rivals they’re trying to best, and if they finish second to Borussia Dortmund they’re almost guaranteed to land one of the tournament’s super powers.
Manuel Pellegrini’s City aren’t a fancied outfit either, despite their dramatic efforts in clinching victory from the depths of despair against Bayern Munich last night. As has become a staple in the diet of Etihad fans the Manchester giants look out of their depth when pitted against anyone outside of England.
Though progression from the group doesn’t look as impossible as it did previously, one tough-luck tie against the likes of Barcelona or Real Madrid and you’d expect them to be sent packing with their tails between their legs.
The dominant force
That leaves just Chelsea, who not only continue to steamroll their opposition and leave journalists mindlessly regurgitating superlatives, but who also boast an incredibly perfect team from back to front. Each position is filled with a player adequately qualified to do what’s asked, and the bench is stocked well enough to deal with all but the most severe injury bouts.
Last but not least they have Mourinho, the master pied piper who, unlike last season, has the Blues dancing to the same tune of success as he did during his first venture in the Stamford Bridge dugout way back in 2004, with subtle differences of course.
Equipped with a formidable unit he’s more than ready to make a sustained assault on Europe’s most coveted prize, and it doesn’t look like anyone’s going to outdo him, outclass him or beat him well as he does so. The rest of the English contingent certainly won’t.