Jose Mourinho: Europa League success more likely than Top Four finish but we don't want it
Embarrassment is not an emotion with which Jose Mourinho has had to particularly concern himself before this season. But the Chelsea manager is well aware that in a campaign in which humiliation has been endured on almost a weekly basis, there would be no greater personal embarrassment than relegation to the Europa League.
Chelsea were the Europa League champions when the Portuguese returned to the club in 2013 and it took a matter of weeks for him to dismiss the achievement and the efforts of the former interim-manager Rafa Benitez.
Defeat at home to Porto tonight, however, would almost certainly lead to Mourinho contemplating Chelsea playing in the competition that he insisted he would not want to win.
He has insisted that Roman Abramovich would tolerate another serious blow, but Chelsea's owner first sacked Andre Villas-Boas when participation in the Champions League was threatened and then dismissed Roberto Di Matteo when relegation to the Europa League was all but sealed.
Abramovich clearly subscribes to the view that Mourinho gave of the Europa League, when he said: "I don't want to win the Europa League. It would be a big disappointment for me. I don't want my players to feel the Europa League is our competition."
In August, Mourinho repeated that view: "When I returned, I felt the experience of Chelsea playing Europa League was not good," he said.
The irony for Chelsea and Mourinho is that relegation to the Europa League tonight may well represent their best chance of qualifying for the Champions League next season.
Mourinho, 52, admitted that the top four may be out of the club's reach, following the 1-0 defeat by Bournemouth, but he would still rather try to qualify for the Champions League by winning it as they did in 2012.
Mourinho said: "I know that, in this moment, it looks to win the Europa League might be an easier way to be in the Champions League next season, than to finish in the top four. But there is another possibility, which is to win the Champions League.
"It's harder than winning the Europa League, yes, but this is the competition we're in. I was always against the teams being knocked out of the Champions League going into the Europa League because there's such a big difference in the level of competition between both. It's not fair on those who have been in the Europa League.
"If you are knocked out of the Champions League, you should go home and focus on domestic competitions.
"But, because the rules say the third has the chance to go to the Europa League, it's a good way for those who are knocked out of the Champions League to win the competition and get back into the Champions League next season.
"But we don't want that. We want to play Champions League, play the best teams - Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern, all the big teams.."
Thibaut Courtois won the 2012 Europa League while on loan at Atletico Madrid, but asked whether it would be embarrassing to play in the tournament with Chelsea, he said: "Yes, of course. We're a team to go in the Champions League and go as far as we can.
"We're confident we'll get the win (against Porto) and get through. A team like Chelsea has to have the goal to win the Champions League, so, obviously, we don't want to be in the Europa League."
Despite Chelsea needing only to avoid defeat to book their place in the knockout stage, Mourinho insisted that he would send his team out to win the game.
To do that, they will have to score a goal - something with which they have struggled. Diego Costa should return to the starting line-up, but has scored just seven goals since January, while Eden Hazard has not scored in 25 games.
Mourinho has also witnessed the former Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku score his 50th goal for Everton in 100 games.
"Look, statistics are statistics, but if you analyse the numbers you can get some good information," Mourinho said.
"Match after match, we beat Chelsea records of high intensity work. In the last three matches we beat the records three times.
"WWe ran and worked more than ever and at a certain intensity we'd never done before.
"Our levels of ball possession are much higher than before, too. Our chances are higher than ever. Our number of goals is lower than ever.
"You have the numbers, you read the numbers, you draw some conclusions. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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