The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
5 things to know about Steaua Bucharest-Chelsea and Basel-Schalke in Champions League Group E
LONDON - Jose Mourinho is certain about one thing this season — he doesn't want to lead Chelsea's Europa League defence. Exiting the Champions League at the group stage last season saw Chelsea under Rafa Benitez drop into Europe's second-tier competition. Although Europa League success enabled Chelsea to end the season with a trophy, Mourinho doesn't rate the competition.
"For my personal pride, I wouldn't like to play Europa League with Chelsea," Mourinho said. "You have to play Europa League if you coach Europa League teams."
To avoid that fate, Chelsea must turn around its Champions League fortunes after losing its Group E opener. Here are five things to know about the second matchday:
Mourinho accepts he's already under pressure when it comes to delivering Champions League success for Chelsea. That surprise loss to Basel at Stamford Bridge has left little room for error, with Steaua Bucharest up next on Tuesday. Lose in Romania, and Mourinho says his team will have to win the four remaining Group E matches. "If you make a second mistake you are alive ... but you are just on the limit," Mourinho said.
MATA OF FACT
Mourinho has brought Juan Mata in from the cold, promising to start the previously out-of-favour midfielder on Tuesday. The Spaniard, last season's player of the year under Benitez, has struggled to convince Mourinho of his worth but was at the heart of Chelsea's revival at Tottenham on Saturday, coming off the bench at halftime as the Blues recovered a point in the Premier League.
A rift between Steaua manager Mihai "Meme" Stoica and the fans has opened up ahead of the Chelsea game after he criticized players from the club's so-called golden era who won the 1986 European Cup. During Sunday's 3-0 victory over ACS Poli Timisoara, fans booed Stoica and yelled "Get out of Ghencea" — referring to the club's ground — and "The only thing that matters for you is money." The 48-year-old Stoica was manager from November 2010 until September 2011 and returned to the dugout last year.
Stoica has already masterminded a victory over Chelsea in 2013. The Romanian capital club won the first leg of their Europa League last-16 phase last season at home 1-0 before losing 3-1 at Stamford Bridge. Like Chelsea, Steaua is seeking its first points in Group E, having lost 3-0 to Schalke two weeks ago.
Facing Basel away isn't such a daunting proposition for Schalke. The German club has not lost in its last five Champions League matches away, winning three and drawing two. In Basel, Schalke will be without U.S. midfielder Jermaine Jones, who has been dropped by coach Jens Keller after a careless action nearly allowed Hoffenheim to win a domestic match Schalke had been leading 3-1 and then had to settle for a 3-3 draw. The team is languishing in 14th place in the Bundesliga after seven games, 11 points behind leader Dortmund.
Schalke's opponents are thriving domestically. Basel moved into a one-point lead at the top of the Swiss league at the weekend despite conceding a late goal to draw 2-2 at home to Sion. Basel expects to have defender Fabian Schaer fit to face Schalke after an injury scare on Saturday. Schaer was carried off on a stretcher after appearing to twist his right knee, but tests showed there was no serious damage.
Nesha Starcevic in Frankfurt, Graham Dunbar in Geneva, and Alison Mutler in Bucharest contributed.
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