Mourinho's master plan is no illusion

One of the reasons for hoarding football programmes is the fascination of revisiting them with hindsight; and not just for the confident manager's notes about a "must-win game" before another demoralising home defeat.

Take the matchday magazine for Barcelona's last visit to Stamford Bridge, in April 2000. Here, spookily, are no fewer than two photographs of Sven Goran Eriksson, then with Lazio, "a man once invited to come to Chelsea"; pen pictures among the visitors of Winston Bogarde, who would become history's most costly reserve, and Boudewijn Zenden; and, next to Luis van Gaal in the team photograph, an assistant coach with jet-black hair looking young enough to be one of the players. If we had known then what we know now...

Almost five years on, Jose Mourinho has emerged as a manager of such influence that even Champions' League pairings conform to his Great Plan. "Barcelona, senhor? Certainly. And Milan next, or would we rather keep them for the final?" Be careful what you wish for. Self-confident as ever, he wanted a test against the best and has now been granted it.

The draw is a thrilling but lopsided one, in which eight of the nine most fancied teams have been thrown together: Chelsea, who had been 9-2 favourites, against Barcelona (11-2), Milan (11-2) against Manchester United (9-1), Juventus (15-2) against Real Madrid (11-1) and Arsenal (7-1) against Bayern Munich (20-1). The exception, and therefore the greatest beneficiaries, are Internazionale, whose tie against Porto, holders but rank outsiders, offers the easiest stepping stone to the last eight.

Not that it will be a formality for the Milanese side, who have Serie A's leading scorer in the mercurial Brazilian Adriano (coveted, naturally, by Real Madrid) but, uniquely, have won more games in the Champions' League this season than in their domestic competition, where their extraordinary record is three wins and 12 draws from 15 high-scoring matches.

Inter's traditional rivals, Milan and Juventus, have taken a stranglehold on the Italian league by more normal methods - like conceding far fewer goals - so their ties against Manchester United and Real Madrid respectively promise to be familiar cultural clashes.

United's claims that their previous meetings with Milan were too long ago to be of any significance ignore that cultural dimension, reflected in distant memories of black-and-white days. In the semi-finals of 1958 and 1969, United teams battered the defensively minded visitors without securing more than a one-goal win (Carlo Cudicini's father barring their way in Milan's goal on the latter occasion) and were outplayed in the San Siro. The odds-makers foresee a similar outcome and now have Milan as favourites to win the competition, which they last did two seasons ago when beating Juventus on penalties at Old Trafford.

Juve's tie has a similar feel to it, as their previous meetings against Real have done. Each time Madrid have taken only a single-goal advantage from their home leg, then lost in Turin - most recently, the season before last, by 3-1, with Zinedine Zidane not snatching a consolation goal until the final minute.

Bearing in mind that much can happen between now and late February, it is still possible to see a distinct Anglo-Italian flavour to the quarter- finals, with as many as six of the eight survivors from those countries. What Liverpool's Rafael Benitez is hoping for is a return to form and fitness of a striker or two, allied to the signing of at least one new one. Even so, Bayer Leverkusen should not be under-estimated on the basis of lying "only" eighth in the Bundesliga. Their league record is virtually identical to Liverpool's and in winning their Champions' League group they took four points each from Real and Roma, and drubbed Dynamo Kiev 3-0.

Bayern Munich may be top as usual in Germany but, for all the talent of Michael Ballack and scoring ability of Roy Makaay, do not look a vintage side. Arsenal, unlike Liverpool, have the advantage of playing their second leg at home and know that, as Arsène Wenger put it, "at least four big teams will go out at this stage".

Bayern, United and Juventus were the heavy fallers in the first knock-out round last season, before Arsenal, Real Madrid and Milan took unexpected tumbles in the quarter-finals. That should have opened things up for Chelsea, but instead it was Porto who kept their nerve best, keeping three successive clean sheets when it mattered most.

Those three games alone ensured that whatever happens at the Nou Camp and Stamford Bridge next spring, Mourinho will never again be an anonymous figure in a team photograph.

Latest odds (William Hill): 11-2 Milan, 13-2 Barcelona and Chelsea, 15-2 Arsenal, 8 Juventus, 11 Manchester Utd and Internazionale, 12 Real Madrid.

Suggested Topics
News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

News
people
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
Arts and Entertainment
filmsIt's nearly a wrap on Star Wars: Episode 7, producer reveals
Life and Style
fashion
News
i100
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey indulge in some racing at a Point to Point
tvNew pictures promise a day at the races and a loved-up Lady Rose
News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Wonnacott dancing the pasadoble
TVStrictly Come Dancing The Result
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past