Good chance for Chelsea to pull out of slump
LONDON – Out-of-sorts Chelsea have a golden opportunity to restore battered self-confidence when they face Maccabi Tel Aviv in their opening Champions League Group G match on Wednesday.
The Premier League champions slumped to their fourth defeat in six games when they lost 3-1 at Everton on Saturday.
Manager Jose Mourinho said he was under no pressure after the match but, according to media reports, he swore at Everton counterpart Roberto Martinez after being made to wait for his post-match news conference.
Earlier, Mourinho admitted the poor run of results were the worst of his career but added he was the man to lead Chelsea out of their hole.
The Portuguese has also fallen out with club doctor Eva Carneiro and had another public spat with old adversary Arsene Wenger after losing to his Arsenal side in the Community Shield season curtain-raiser at Wembley.
Chelsea take on the Israeli double winners on Wednesday having lost their last two league matches.
The Londoners will again be without injured keeper Thibaut Courtois who was outstanding when they won the Premier League last season.
Maccabi are back in the competition for the first time since 2004-05 after coming through the qualifying rounds, thanks almost entirely to forward Eran Zahavi who has scored 12 goals in total this season.
Although 2012 European champions Chelsea and Maccabi have never met, visiting coach Slavisa Jokanovic and defender Tal Ben Haim know all about the Stamford Bridge club.
Jokanovic, who was manager when Watford were promoted to the Premier League last season, had a two-year playing spell at Chelsea.
He made 53 appearances in midfield, playing in the same side as a young John Terry, while Ben Haim also had a stint at the Bridge, featuring 23 times for the Blues.
Although Chelsea are vastly more experienced than Maccabi and should win, seasoned campaigner Gal Alberman says his team are not coming to London simply to make up the numbers.
“We are fully aware of the difference in levels between us and Chelsea but we are not going there to surrender with our hands up,” said Alberman.
“We will do all we can to get a good result,” he told reporters after Maccabi drew 1-1 with Hapoel Kiryat Shmona on Saturday.
Dynamo Kiev and Porto meet in the other Group G match on Wednesday. -Reuters