Mourinho seeks win in Abramovich family feud

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The Independent Football

When Roman Abramovich rode through the gates of the Lokomotiv Stadium yesterday - on board the Chelsea team bus - he perhaps fulfilled just another boyhood dream in another homecoming that his billionaire status has helped to realise. He perhaps didn't expect to hear that minutes later his manager, Jose Mourinho, would declare it near on impossible for his team to win both the Champions' League and the Premiership this season.

Both men - fiercely ambitious - would probable settle for one. This season at least. After all, as Mourinho pointed out on the eve of today's tie with CSKA Moscow, "it was 50 years ago" that Chelsea last won the league "and the Champions' League never". Although Mourinho achieved such an illustrious double with Porto last season he believes the bar has been raised for him since then.

"I think Manchester United did it a few years ago," he said of the prospect of being English and European champions and in reference to Sir Alex Ferguson's 1999 achievements, "but it is really difficult. It happens once in a lifetime and for me it has happened twice in the last two years so I don't think there will be a third consecutive." He landed a Uefa Cup and league double two seasons ago but Mourinho acknowledged that the Portuguese league was a less testing environment.

"For the two seasons in Portugal ... it was quite easy to win the championship," Mourinho said. "When you lead by 10, 12, 14 points you can rotate your players. You can [then] use them at a higher level in the Champions' League."

He may consider making changes today even if the Russians, who are set to win their second consecutive domestic league title, after a gap of 12 years, proved to be Chelsea's most difficult opponents in their opening three Group H matches. However, Mourinho's side won all three ties and need just a point to progress. "We have nine points and maybe some people think we are already in the second stage and maybe we are," he said. "But we want to be first in the group and win every match."

That statement was intended to scotch the conspiracy theorists who have looked at Abramovich's links with CSKA - his company Sibneft pays a hefty £29m in sponsorship - and believe that it may be of mutual interest that a point is earned by each side to squeeze out Porto and Paris St-Germain. There is undoubtedly a feel-good relationship, a "politeness" Mourinho called it, although he insisted it would stop with the referee's first whistle.

Nevertheless, the sight of John Terry padding around Red Square in flip-flops and shorts, as he did yesterday lunchtime in leading a squad walkabout, may suggest that Chelsea aren't taking the tie all that seriously. Or it may simply suggest that the club captain was badly advised as to the temperatures in town around this time of year.

Mourinho, however, spoke forcefully about the importance of fostering a "winning culture. We have a big responsibility to give the best of us and to try to win every match," he said.

Mourinho spoke with Abramovich "yesterday and today like I do all the time. I don't see a difference with this game and another game. I want to win, the players want to win, the boss wants to win. "Every match [Abramovich] is with us from the beginning and in training and in meetings. We are always very confident when he is with us and I think he feels the same with the pros."

Much interest in Moscow has also centred on whether Alexei Smertin will play. Mourinho said: "I have to choose not with emotion, with heart, with relations with countries but with what is best for the team." Another Russian may catch his eye. Among the CSKA signings funded by Sibneft cash is the 21-year-old Yuri Zhirkov. However he is another left-sided midfielder and Chelsea have a surfeit. Indeed Damien Duff and Arjen Robben may start together for the first time.

Victory would allow Chelsea to turn their attentions to the Premiership. Indeed they face Arsenal just five days after their final Champions' League group game, away to Porto, which may be meaningless. Events at Highbury won't be and a result there could make the twin challenge not such an impossible task.

CSKA Moscow (probable 4-4-2): Akinfeev; Semberas, Ignashevich, Rahimic, Berezoutski; Gusev, Jarosik, Aldonin, Zhirkov; Olic, De Souza.

Chelsea (probable 4-3-3): Cech; Ferreira, Terry, Gallas, Bridge; Lampard, Makelele, Smertin; Robben, Gudjohnsen, Duff.

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