Mourinho puzzled as Chelsea miss elite seeding

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The Independent Football

Real Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Bayern Munich and Liverpool - who have no "country protection" - are among the possibilities to be in Chelsea's group.

Students of Uefa's fantastically complicated rankings system, which rates each club with a performance "coefficient", would also argue that Chelsea have not yet earned the right to a top seeding anyway.

For the draw, the 32 contenders will be split into four pots of eight, from Pot No 1, containing the crème de la crème, to Pot No 4, where the likes of the Swiss minnows, Thun, and their Slovakian counterparts, Artmedia Bratislava, will be licking their lips at the thought of meeting them. But while Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United will be in Pot No 1 alongside Real Madrid and co, Chelsea will be in Pot No 2 with the also-rans from Spain and Italy, and representatives from the Netherlands and France. That fact still puzzles Mourinho.

"We are the champions of England and two consecutive times we have been in the Champions' League semi-finals, and we are not heads of groups [seeded in Pot No 1]," he said this week, with an air of bafflement.

"I've not studied the coefficient and I'm nobody to say that the coefficient is correct or incorrect. But Manchester United are heads of group, and Arsenal and Liverpool. But the champions of England are not heads."

The reason is simple. The coefficient takes into account domestic form last season, plus, crucially, European performances from the past four years. In that time, Manchester United have reached one Champions' League semi-final, one quarter-final and two last-16 rounds. Arsenal have reached one quarter-final during four years of consecutive Champions' League appearances, while Liverpool have won the event, reached another quarter-final, and reached the Uefa Cup fourth round in 2004.

Chelsea's record prior to the past two seasons included early Uefa Cup losses against such giants as Viking Stavanger, Hapoel Tel Aviv and St Gallen.

Managers say there are no easy sides in the Champions' League, but few will complain if they are drawn with the Swiss side Thun or Artmedia Bratislava from Slovakia, even though they put out Celtic.

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