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José Mourinho gave Salomon Kalou his big break at Chelsea FC four years ago and the 24-year-old forward now hopes his UEFA Champions League reunion with the coach will help reignite his Stamford Bridge career.
Mourinho signed Kalou from Feyenoord in 2006 and quickly installed him in the Chelsea side, with the Ivory Coast international averaging 30 Premier League games a season in his first three campaigns. This term, however, he has had his playing time squeezed by the formidable form of Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda.
Kalou surprisingly returned to the team for the first leg of the round of 16 tie against FC Internazionale Milano, and grabbed his chance with a crucial goal against his former mentor which drew Chelsea level shortly after half-time. Although the London club went on to lose 2-1 in Italy, Kalou could be counting on his strike persuading coach Carlo Ancelotti to grant him another shot at Mourinho's side on Tuesday.
"It was a great moment," Kalou told UEFA.com. "It was my first time at the San Siro, the first time I have played in that unbelievable stadium. It was very important for me to score and get the confidence back – and to get back in the team. I felt happy, I felt good.
"It showed the confidence [Ancelotti] has in me, to start [me in] such a big game after not playing for a while. I always get myself ready for every game, to try to do my best, to try to bring that extra thing to the team. Any time I have the opportunity to get on the pitch I enjoy myself, and I try to push my team to victory."
Kalou, though, was loath to celebrate his goal too wildly on 24 February out of respect for Mourinho. "He's one of the best managers I've played for and he brought a lot to my career," he said. "When he signed me at Chelsea he gave me a lot of confidence. He always put me in the team, no matter what game. He brought a lot of positive things to my career so I'll never forget him."
The attacker certainly has previous when it comes to being unfazed by the big occasion. He held his nerve to score in the shoot-out in the 2008 UEFA Champions League final after John Terry had missed from the spot. However, he knows that Mourinho's Stamford Bridge homecoming presents its own challenges.
"We expect a difficult game, because they're going to come back," he said. "We know what José is about, we know that when he needs to keep the result he's very good at it. But in the end we have the opportunity to win at home and we know better how to play at home, so we're really confident about that. We know we just have to score one goal to qualify."
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