For a manager as meticulous in his preparation as Jose Mourinho, his claim last night that Chelsea will qualify for the knock-out stages of the Champions' League if they beat Anderlecht was more than a little embarrassing.
"The reality is in two matches we need one victory," he said. "With one victory we qualify." But it seems the Special One has not got his maths right - especially if Real Betis triumph at Liverpool - which was all the more unfortunate given that his true message yesterday was to ward against complacency in his stellar team.
Chelsea's trials in Europe are a curious distraction unless, of course, you are Roman Abramovich who has set winning the European Cup as a more important trophy than the league.
And yet Chelsea have one of the worst away records in the Champions' League of late. Going into tonight's encounter, the astonishing fact is that they have suffered five defeats and earned just one draw on their travels since beating CSKA Moscow a year ago.
"We lost in Porto when we were already top of the group," said Mourinho in justification. "We lost at Barcelona but beat them at home. We lost in Munich and still qualified. Of course the defeats in Seville [against Betis] and at Liverpool [we] were disappointing." Mourinho was correct, also, in stating: "We still have a very, very good chance to qualify. So our situation is not bad."
That situation, he feels, has nevertheless been affected by a certain complacency amongst his players. "Because we had so many good results and maybe because it was too good to be true what was happening to us this season, maybe we relaxed a little bit," he said of recent results.
They have also faced teams who have felt an extra motivation because of their own failings. "The message I have for my players is that when you look to the matches against Everton, Betis, Manchester United and Anderlecht they have something in common: we were playing against teams in a difficult situation and what happened? We didn't start the games well," Mourinho added. "We started quite relaxed, we conceded early goals and gave life and confidence to them. Our attitude will be a stronger attitude than in those matches."
Anderlecht, second in the Belgian league, are a beleaguered team having lost their past 12 Champions' League fixtures and resorting to a bit of go-karting to try and improve dwindling morale after being defeated in the Belgian Cup by the Second Division club Geel last week.
Their coach, Franky Vercauteren, remains defiant - especially as chances were created against Betis and Liverpool while at Stamford Bridge a point would have been earned if Anthony van den Borre's shot had deflected into, rather than away from, the goal after he struck a post. "The pressure is on Chelsea to win" Vercauteren said. "We have nothing to lose." He is likely to include 19-year-old Vincent Kompany, who has interested Chelsea.
The Mauves do carry a degree of danger especially as Chelsea will be without Claude Makelele because of the knee he damaged in the weekend win over Newcastle United. Michael Essien will probably fill in although Mourinho may release 20-year-old Lassana Diarra.
Certain to play, it appears, is Eidur Gudjohnsen whose father Ainur is a former Anderlecht striker. "I remember my parents saying I wouldn't go to sleep without wearing my Anderlecht shirt," the Icelander said yesterday. "When I was younger it was the team I wanted to play for but times in football have changed."
Chelsea (probable, 4-3-3): Cech; Gallas, Terry, Carvalho, Del Horno; Lampard, Essien, Gudjohnsen; J Cole, Drogba, Duff.
Anderlecht (probable, 4-3-2-1): Proto; Van den Borre, De Man, Tihinen, Deschacht; Kompany, Zetterberg, Tiote; Wilhelmsson, Goor; Mpenza.
Referee: S Farina (Italy).Reuse content