Those expecting a footballing version of that ultimate reality-television satire The Truman Show, with every microphone and camera pointing at Jose Mourinho on his return to Porto, have been disappointed thus far. Yesterday at the Estadio do Dragao, the Mourinho Show was a no-show, reminiscent of the scene in the film where Truman's best friend is sent to wake him and finds a bolster lying in the bed.
At the pre-match media conference, traditionally attended by each club's manager and one player, the bedclothes were pulled back to reveal - Steve Clarke, standing in for his boss just as he did before and after last weekend's match against Newcastle. Mourinho, it transpired, had been given special dispensation by Uefa to miss the proceedings.
The man who infuriated many of Porto's Ultras and the club's hierarchy by deciding before winning the Champions' League last season to leave the club, recently revealed that he had received death threats when he returned home from the final with the victorious squad. Then when his former side visited Stamford Bridge earlier in the competition, he was spat at by a Portuguese supporter, Helder Mota. Mota is insisting he will be at the game despite being banned, while the Ultras are promising "a surprise" for their former hero.
They were not allowed any opportunity last night, Chelsea breaking with another tradition by training at home instead of on their hosts' pitch, and not flying from Gatwick until mid-afternoon. Mourinho then travelled straight to the team hotel with his squad, while Clarke headed for the stadium to meet a disappointed media contingent. Although a pleasant man, he naturally sounded anodyne in comparison to the man who has filled a thousand notebooks since leaving northern Portugal for west London.
"Jose likes to win football matches, and he's looking on it as another one," the Scot suggested. "He's motivated for every game. I can't answer for how the fans of Porto will receive the manager. When you look at the position in the group maybe we're slight favourites, but it's very close between the teams."
Clarke offered few clues about the composition of the side tonight. Once Chelsea had qualified by winning their first four group matches, Mourinho made eight changes for the home game against Paris Saint-Germain, who benefited by achieving a goalless draw.
Does he do the same this time, which would be in the club's best interests five days ahead of the critical Premiership set-to at Arsenal? Or play fair by CSKA Moscow, Roman Abramovich's "other" club, sticking largely to the system and personnel that have been so successful over the past few weeks? Deciding to fly Frank Lampard out late following his grandfather's funeral yesterday suggests the latter option, which would also suit a proud man's desire to avoid defeat against those whose ingratitude he resents.
Porto know that even victory might not be enough to prevent them becoming the first holders failing to progress to the knock-out stage. With a worse head-to-head record than PSG, who have the same number of points, they must not only do better than the French side, but make sure of finishing above CSKA, who can still qualify. Two successive home defeats have also threatened their defence of the Portuguese title, nine new players having failed to compensate for the departure of five Champions' League winners.
In the strained circumstances, it is perhaps just as well that the result is immaterial to Chelsea's prospects.
Porto (4-3-3, probable): Nuno; Seitaridis, Jorge Costa, Pedro Emanuel, Ricardo Costa; Bosingwa, Costinha, Maniche; Derlei, Quaresma, McCarthy.
Chelsea (4-3-3, possible): Cech; Paulo Ferreira, Terry, Carvalho, Bridge; Geremi, Parker, Lampard; Duff, Drogba, Robben.
Referee: M Busacca (Switzerland).Reuse content