Special delivery: What will Mourinho do next?
After another slip-up by Barcelona last weekend, Jose Mourinho seems increasingly likely to complete his grand slam of titles in England, Italy and Spain by winning La Liga this season with Real Madrid, then hand in his resignation. He has always wanted to return to English football, but where might he end up?
Arsène Wenger, whose contract runs until 2014, has never broken one yet and is not going to be sacked. The only possibility of a change would be if he considered resignation the honourable thing to do after a major failure – say, no European football at all next season.
It would take a painful swallowing of pride by Roman Abramovich to re-employ the man he sacked five years ago. But if Andre Villas-Boas continues to struggle in his attempt to transform the squad and style of play, a replacement could be required sooner than had been previously envisaged.
Kenny Dalglish's stock may be as high as ever with a majority of supporters – and they do not like Mourinho – but the club's hierarchy are less impressed after the Luis Suarez episode. Dalglish has at times looked uncomfortable since his return to management and a departure is not unthinkable.
As impatient for success as Abramovich, and equally ruthless, City's owners would be bitterly disappointed if they didn't win the Premier League title this season, and being pipped by Manchester United could mean the chop for Roberto Mancini, which would provide Mourinho with just the sort of platform he would relish.
Mourinho is one of the few coaches big enough to fill Sir Alex Ferguson's shoes. But unfortunately for him there is no sign of them being vacated. Another year or so and the timing would be better, though even then some United traditionalists would not like Mourinho's style – on or off the pitch.
The word is that with Harry Redknapp apparently destined for the England job, soundings have already taken place about Mourinho's interest and availability. A return to London, a city where he and his family enjoyed living, plus almost certainly a Champions' League place, makes this a good fit.
If the Football Association really want the best man for the national job, they would have to stick Mourinho on their shortlist. But their preference is for someone British – if not an Englishman – and Mourinho, like Wenger, believes that is the right way to go.
Brits in Europe this week
Napoli v Chelsea (Sky Sports 2, 7.45)
This is the sort of tactical chess match that Andre Villas-Boas should enjoy preparing for, even if with his season hanging in the balance he dare not come up with the wrong strategy. Napoli like to play with a three-man defence and three interchanging forwards, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Marek Hamsik and Edinson Cavani, who proved too clever for Manchester City in the group games.
Manchester City (2) v Porto (1)
Recovering from a first-half goal by Silvestre Varela, City would have won the first leg by a wider margin were it not for some good saves by Porto's goalkeeper Helton. As it is, the two away goals they managed to secure at the Estadio do Dragao should make for a safe passage into the last 16 provided that there is no complacency among Roberto Mancini's men.
Manchester United (2) v Ajax (0) (8.05pm, Channel 5)
Like their neighbours, United came through a potentially tricky first leg in Amsterdam and should now follow them into the next round. As in the first match, the Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen is expected to provide the main threat for the visitors in what should otherwise be a comfortable evening, although Sir Alex Ferguson may well choose a less than first-choice side.
Valencia (1) v Stoke City (0)
Enjoyable as Stoke's first European campaign for almost 40 years has been, it may now be drawing to an end. The first game against the technically gifted Spanish side at the Britannia last Thursday produced the anticipated clash of styles but in the end it was decided by a stunning 30-yard drive from Mehmet Topal. Valencia had rested their leading scorer Roberto Soldado as well as the defensive midfielder David Albelda, and they should be able to manage without either of them again on Thursday. However, Tony Pulis's scrappers will not go quietly.
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