By Alex O'Henley
"Two games to savour and enjoy." That was the verdict of Steve Clarke, Chelsea FC's assistant manager, as he looked forward to the meeting with FC Barcelona in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.
It was the draw that Chelsea manager José Mourinho wanted above all others and the first leg sees him return to the Camp Nou where he spent four years as an assistant to Sir Bobby Robson and Louis Van Gaal at the start of his career as a coach.
Arjen Robben's foot injury may have deprived Chelsea of a potential matchwinner for the fixture, but according to Clarke the tie is delicately poised between two sides who are considered among the favourites to lift the trophy in Istanbul on 25 May.
"I think José said it would be a 50-50 tie and you've got to agree with that," Clarke told uefa.com. "You're looking at two teams who are on top of their game at the moment, so it's evenly balanced over the two legs. Barça have started a little bit slowly after the winter break, but they've picked up in recent weeks. It will be a great tie and I think it's one that football fans all over the world will enjoy."
The 41-year-old Scot is also relishing his own elevated status this season having been promoted from youth coach under Claudio Ranieri to being an integral part of the first-team coaching staff. Following his arrival from last season's Champions League winners FC Porto, Mourinho needed a British coach to work alongside his Portuguese staff and Clarke, with 421 appearances for Chelsea as a player, fitted the bill perfectly.
His profile has increased in tandem with Chelsea's improbable quest for all four trophies available to them, but Clarke is reluctant to elaborate too much on Mourinho's secrets or the contents of 'the Bible', the fabled dossier which contains all of his training and tactical methods.
"It's not any one thing that he does, more lots of little aspects that are different from other coaches," Clarke said. "Different but similar if you know what I mean. I know that can sound contradictory but it's all those things that add up to the whole.
"I don't need to see 'the Bible' because I work with José every day and you can see why he's had so much success over the past two seasons. He's meticulous in his preparation for every training session. Every game the players know what to expect from the opposition and they know what is expected of them, which is crucial."
However, Clarke is willing to give a definitive answer on what the main target is for Chelsea this season. Fifty years have elapsed since they last won the English title and even though they are still in contention for four trophies, Clarke admits that the championship is their No1 aim.
"We haven't won it for 50 years and it would mean so much to this club if we could lift the trophy again," he said. "
To be a top team you have to be champions in your own country, so that's the priority for us this season. Anything else that comes along after that, be it the Champions League, the FA Cup or the League Cup, would be a bonus, but it's important to stress we haven't won anything yet, so we have to keep going."
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