Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has kick-started the mind games ahead of the Champions League last 16 draw on Monday [13 December] but labelling his side among the weakest side to qualify for the knock-out phase. The Blues progressed as group winners after beating Porto at Stamford Bridge but Mourinho's expectations over making further strides in the competition are seemingly rock bottom.
Paris Saint Germain, PSV Eindhoven, Benfica, Juventus, Roma and Gent represent the potential opposition for the Premier League champions in the first knock-out phase. Despite the club being protected from drawing any of the continent's giants including holders Barcelona, Mourinho insists every club remaining in the competition will fancy their chances.
"I think everyone went to play us," the Chelsea boss said. "I think every second team wants to play us. They don't want to play Barcelona, they don't want to play Real Madrid, they don't want to play Atletico [Madrid], they don't want to play Bayern [Munich]. I think every team finishing second they want to get us, they want to get Zenit. We are the weakest."
Mourinho came into the game with questions over his future, following the club's eighth league defeat of the season to AFC Bournemouth at the weekend. Victory acts as much-needed respite for the Portuguese boss who feels reinvigorated by a recent improvement in his side's performances.
"What gives me confidence is the fact that we are playing ok in the last couple of months," he said. "The results are not as good as the work we do every day or as good as the players are playing.
"We would have had different results against Stoke, Tottenham and Bournemouth. The piece of luck that we had in our first goal - it is a great pass and a great move - but we are a bit lucky with the rebound. It is a great save from [Iker] Casillas. That little bit of luck we never get in the Premier league. A great decision by the official on the goal-line; we never get that in the Premier League."
Chelsea are joined by Arsenal and Manchester City in the knock-out phase but with the west London side 14 points adrift of the top four and even further behind Premier League leaders Leicester City, they would be forgiven for turning their attention to Europe's premier club competition. However, Mourinho is keen to continue to pursue the top four until it is mathematically impossible.
"The Premier League boss [Richard Scudamore] told me in an interview a few months ago that it would be good for the Premier League if Chelsea is now the champions," he added. "But he didn't say that it is good for the Premier League if we do not finish fourth.
"While mathematically it is still possible let's fight in every game for every point and see if it possible to finish fourth. To win the Champions League I think it is obvious that a team struggling so much like we are we are not obviously a candidate to win the Champions League.
"But when we won in Porto in 2004 we were not candidates, when we won with Inter in 2010 we were not candidates. When when we were candidates we lost two semi-finals with Real Madrid and lost two semi-finals with Chelsea so you never know."