It is hard to ignore the possibility that Jose Mourinho may well be in charge of European football at this very moment. From his grand mansion in Madrid, the former Chelsea manager was probably grinning from ear-to-ear as Barcelona, the “greatest” team in Europe, succumbed to a display of defensive solidity unparalleled all season from Chelsea, and with ten men to boot. After John Terry’s brainless sending off for an “accidental” foul on Alexis Sanchez, and Gary Cahill’s injury, which split up the visitors’ defence, they held firm against the home side’s onslaught, and emerged from the Nou Camp with a 2-2 draw. It all worked out perfectly for Mourinho. As the undisputed king of Stamford Bridge, one can only presume Chelsea fans still maintain shrines to the “Special One” in their living rooms. To approach the final in Munich against the man who made the club what it is today will either inspire the Blues or scare the life out of them.
This is assuming Real Madrid get there. Which, in all probability, they will. Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain have scored more than 80 goals in the Spanish Liga BBVA this year, and as an attacking triumvirate, will be supported by the impetus and drive of Mesut Oezil in the midfield. Bayern Munich do lead 2-1 from the first leg in the Allianz Arena, but that all-important away goal means that the German giants will almost certainly need to score, and keep out Madrid, on a ground where the Spanish league leaders have failed to win only twice this season in the league.
So, what about Mourinho? Well, at the very least, it’s been an eventful week. Real’s 2-1 win over Barcelona at the weekend more or less condemned Pep Guardiola’s side to second place. Seven points behind with four games to go, barring a monumental collapse, Barca’s predominance at the top of the Spanish league appears to be coming to an end. With talk of Guardiola departing for a new challenge, even if this doesn’t occur, Mourinho has won. He is the new king of Spain. All hail. Mourinho may well depart too, should he win the Champions League as well as the BBVA trophy, and perhaps try his hand at international management: the only prize left to the “Special One” in modern football.
In the meantime, after Real win tonight (you heard it here first), Mourinho will be preparing his plan to assault the Chelsea ramparts. The extent of Cahill’s injury is yet to be confirmed, and like David Luiz, the defender is set to undergo a fitness test. With both Terry and Branislav Ivanovic suspended (the latter callously informed by Sky Sports presenter Geoff Shreeves in a post match interview), the terrifying prospect of Jose Bosingwa enjoying yet more playing time in Europe’s premier club competition could well manifest itself. The ultimate victory for Mourinho, even more than the likelihood that Real are capable of putting a halt to the Chelsea renaissance, was the announcement today that the Barcelona manager believes his team must change their tactics, and possibly even consider “a different way of attacking”. Given that for many years, Los Cules have been held up as the paradigm of 21st century football, and a model for everyone to applaud, but none to even consider replicating, the satisfaction for Mourinho will be very sweet indeed.
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