PORTO: In the midst of a frustrating start to the season, Jose Mourinho returns to Portugal on Tuesday as Chelsea face his old side FC Porto in the Champions League.
The London club are looking to make it two wins out of two in Group G after their straightforward 4-0 victory against Maccabi Tel-Aviv at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago, but they must improve on another poor performance in the Premier League. Chelsea had to come from two goals down to draw 2-2 away to struggling Newcastle United on Saturday.
Mourinho later admitted that the first-half performance at St James’ Park was Chelsea’s worst under his management, rating his players as “minus one”.
But as the Blues linger in 15th place having won just two of seven league games, a trip to his old home is the type of fixture which tends to galvanise Mourinho.
It is not the first time he has returned to Porto since leaving the Portuguese giants after leading them to Champions League glory in 2004 with a 3-0 final win over Monaco. Later that year he went back as Chelsea manager and oversaw a 2-1 group-stage defeat.
Radamel Falcao may not start against his former club as Diego Costa, suspended in the Premier League, is expected to start.
There will be other reunions, though, and Porto goalkeeper Iker Casillas will surely be determined to get one over on Mourinho after the two fell out during their time together at Real Madrid.
Porto also drew 2-2 at the weekend, throwing away a lead twice away to Moreirense, although they remain unbeaten and are top of the Portuguese league.
Sanchez key, says Walcott
Theo Walcott says Alexis Sanchez’s ability to reproduce the form that terrorised Leicester holds the key to Arsenal’s success in the Champions League.
The Chile winger hadn’t scored for the Gunners this season as he struggled to recover from the draining experience of leading his country to the Copa America title. But Walcott believes the former Barcelona star’s scintillating display at Leicester proved he is back in the groove just in time for a crucial Champions League clash with Greek side Olympiakos on Tuesday.
“I am sure he is going to flourish now with many, many more important goals. It has been a long time coming, he knows that himself. But he is very pleased,” said Walcott. “He is a top-quality player and even when he is not scoring goals he works so hard for us. He tracks back and does a lot for the team.”
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger agrees Sanchez is back to his world-class best. “He is back to his level. He won a big competition with Chile — the Copa America — and to adjust again to a competitive level when you come back takes some time. We could see in training already a different player in the last week or two.”
Barcelona looking to cope with Messi absence
European champions Barcelona begin a two-month stretch without Lionel Messi when Bayer Leverkusen visit the Camp Nou on Tuesday.
Messi suffered a torn left knee ligament as Barca squeezed past Las Palmas 2-1 at the weekend.
“He is the best in the world and logically we will miss him a lot,” said midfielder Sergio Busquets.
With Claudio Bravo, Thomas Vermaelen and Rafinha also sidelined by injury, coach Luis Enrique has just 15 senior outfield players to choose from in the coming weeks.
Barca are serving a one-year ban from registering new players for breaking FIFA’s rules on the signing of minors.
“It is an extra test and motivation for our team,” said Enrique. “In these moments is when you see what we are made of and I have no doubt that we are going to be fine.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2015.
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