By Trevor Haylett
When Chelsea FC and FC Barcelona last met in the UEFA Champions League, José Mourinho's affiliation was to the Catalan team. An assistant coach at the Camp Nou, he was a long way from becoming the charismatic figure who currently bestrides the European scene.
Mourinho enjoyed his time with Barcelona and says the experience he gained working under Sir Bobby Robson and Louis van Gaal has helped mould him into the manager he is today; one who, when this titanic test is out of the way, will then turn his thoughts to Sunday's English League Cup final with Liverpool FC and Chelsea's nine-point Premiership lead.
His time in Spain was both beneficial and satisfying. "The people are very warm, very polite and very open to foreigners," he said. But it will not lessen Mourinho's desire to beat his old club and push Chelsea a step closer to emulating what he achieved with FC Porto last season.
He would certainly be unhappy if this tie were to follow a similar rollercoaster path to the one that distinguished his then club's quarter-final with Chelsea five years ago. The Londoners won their home leg 3-1 - only to end up defeated in extra time in the Camp Nou.
"I remember the first game could have been 4-0 or 5-0 to Chelsea but it ended up 3-1, with Luís Figo's goal giving us life for the second leg," Mourinho recalled. "We had to risk a lot then, we bet everything. Rivaldo killed the game off [in extra time] and over two legs it was a magnificent game, although maybe a bit unfair on Chelsea. I don't believe there will be as many goals this time."
His side go into the game following only his second domestic defeat as Chelsea manager, a 1-0 loss at Newcastle United FC in the FA Cup. It ended the dream of an unprecedented quartet of trophies but Mourinho's two major priorities have always been the Premiership and Champions League.
After lifting the European Champion Clubs' Cup with Porto it is clear he regards the trophy as personal property. "
I have to defend what is mine," he said. "The Champions League is mine at the moment. It means a lot to me. Maybe it was because I won the Champions League that I had such a big turn in my life which enabled me to come to a big country like this. It's unforgettable and I want a repeat."
However, defending it will be extremely hard, given both the hectic English fixture programme and the quality of the teams remaining. Mourinho believes the eventual winner will emerge from one of four ties - this one, Manchester United FC against AC Milan, Real Madrid CF versus Juventus FC and Arsenal FC's encounter with FC Bayern München. "Of those eight great teams, four will be out," Mourinho said. "The reality of football is that you can lose against big teams."
There are few bigger than Barcelona. "[They] have the best African player [Samuel Eto'o], the world player of the year [Ronaldinho] and the best player in last season's Champions League [Deco], so they have a lot of quality," he said. "
Deco went to Barcelona when he was completely ready; sometimes you go when you are not ready. He had knowledge and experience and was a Champions League winner." If Deco is to triumph in Europe again this season, he will first have to get one over Mourinho.
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