Jose Mourinho describes Chelsea team as 'beautiful young eggs' that 'need a mum'
The Champions League require a player and the manager to attend pre-match press conferences. Chelsea are not alone in asking questions be directed to the player first, so he can then leave and continue playing Call of Duty or whatever his pre-match preparation consists of, but at few clubs is it so obvious that the player is the warm-up act.
Today Demba Ba was the support, hanging around long enough to admit he had not played as well for Chelsea as he had for West Ham and Newcastle, and that he had been ready to join Arsenal on deadline day as he wanted to play matches. That move having broken down, he was ready to fight for his place.
Then it was time for the star. Six years ago this week Jose Mourinho was sacked by Chelsea after overseeing a tame draw with Rosenberg at a half-full Stamford Bridge. His romance with Chelsea had, it seemed, ran its course. In the intervening years Mourinho has won the Champions League with Internazionale, and Chelsea done so under Robbie Di Matteo, but both seemed to be searching for true fulfillment.
Now, Mourinho indicated, it was at hand. He was back at the club he loved almost as much as his wife (though surely not near as much as himself) and Chelsea had the manager they deserved.
Thrice he pointed out he has won the competition twice already (the other triumph with Porto), and thrice he noted he has managed 108 matches in the competition, 'in quite a short period of time' (ten years). The Europa League Chelsea won last season under Rafael Benitez was trash-talked while credit was claimed for the 2012 Champions League success.
"Last season Chelsea went out of its natural habitat - the Champions League - and into a competition that is not a Chelsea competition, which we did not want to play in. We don't want to do that again. We did history by being the only champions to be eliminated from the group stage after six matches. Nobody, not even the fans, was happy to be in the Europa League."
"Was I envious [of Di Matteo winning the competition with Chelsea]. What? For God's sake no. My feeling was that Chelsea, not specifically in that year - they probably did it in the year nobody was expecting them to - but all over the years, the club the players and the owner and the fans, deserved to win it. Maybe the God of football delivered justice.
"When you work in a club and prepare the future, wanting to leave something in the club that remains for years, your work doesn't finish the day you leave. It finishes the day everything you did disappears. So, for example, the other day I was looking at Real Madrid's team and Real Madrid played the same system, the same players, and changed just Bale for Ozil. I'm not there, but I left something there. With Chelsea, it's a bit the same."
There is some truth in this. Five of the 13 that played in Munich were signed by Mourinho and the bloody-minded DNA and spine of the side owed much to him.
Some of those veterans are still with him but now, he said, he is building anew. Four of Wednesday's starting XI will be 22-or-under, he said. Adapting an analogy he used on the eve of his dismissal ('I can no longer buy class one eggs from Waitrose'), these youngsters are "beautiful, young eggs. Eggs that need a Mum, in this case... a Dad... to take care of them, to keep them warm during the winter, to bring the blanket and work and improve them. One day the moment will arrive when the weather changes, the sun rises, you break the eggs and the eggs are ready to go for life at the top level."
Chelsea, incidentally, are playing Basle. The Swiss champions were barely mentioned but Mourinho pointed out that while Chelsea beat them in the Europa League semi-final last year they have knocked Tottenham and Manchester United out of European competitions in the last two seasons.
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Cole; Lampard, Van Ginkel; De Bruyne, Oscar, Hazard; Eto'o.
Basel (4-1-4-1): Sommer; P Degen (or Xhaka), Schar, Ivanov, Safari; Frei; Salah, Diaz, Stocker, Sio; Streller.