Champions League: As bad as it gets

FC BASEL 1 (Mohamed Salah 87)


Chelsea qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League on Wednesday morning (Singapore time), but not in the manner they might have chosen.

The Blues slipped to a deserved 1-0 defeat by FC Basel, failing to register even a single shot on target in the process. Jose Mourinho was not amused.

"We made mistakes defensively," he lamented. "We made mistakes with the ball, we lost easy passes, lost the ball, people were thinking late and we finished with a ridiculous goal. The goal was ridiculous."

Fortunately for Chelsea, Schalke's failure to beat Steaua Bucharest means that they cannot finish above the London side.

Basel will play the German side in the final group game and only a defeat will cost them a place in the last 16.

This was as bad as Chelsea have played under Jose Mourinho and, to his credit, he didn't try to hide it.

"I didn't like anything from the first minute," he groaned, before going on to blame fatigue brought on by international games and the Saturday evening clash with West Ham.

These obstacles, sadly, are non-negotiable. Chelsea have to find a way of coping.

Every time they fall short, as they did here by some distance, Mourinho's two most controversial decisions are reexamined.

Should he have kept Romelu Lukaku and should he have played Juan Mata?


None of Chelsea's strikers have hit any kind of consistent form this season and, until players like Andre Schuerrle and Kevin de Bruyne begin to contribute, Mourinho cannot further alienate a man who most assumed was one of the club's most valuable assets.

The idea that Mata's inclusion would have prevented this result may be a little simplistic, but it's a question that will continue to be asked while Chelsea struggle.

Mourinho's justification for sidelining Mata was, according to well-placed sources, that the Spaniard had a habit of slowing attacking moves down by taking too many touches.

Even if that is the case, his absence hasn't exactly helped matters.

With or without him, Chelsea are still too slow in transition.

While Basel broke like wild horses, galloping fearlessly towards goal, Mourinho's men were ponderous and stodgy on the ball.

There is nothing wrong with patient possession at the back, pinging the ball from man to another until space opens up.

There is a lot wrong with being unable to take advantage of the space when it appears.

A nasty-looking injury to Samuel Eto'o saw him replaced by Fernando Torres, but neither man could make any inroads into a very modest defence.

Basel midfielder Serey Die was a tenacious and tormenting presence, but no more so than you'd find at a good Championship club.


Basel have made a habit of embarrassing English teams, something Chelsea would have remembered from their meeting with them at Stamford Bridge, but they shouldn't have such a hold over one of Europe's most expensively assembled sides.

Mourinho had said before the game that all the pressure would be on the Swiss side, but from the way they tore Chelsea apart before the break, it certainly didn't seem that way.

Mourinho wanted this game won so that he could play the reserves against Steaua Bucharest knowing that he had first place secured.

That is no longer an option. Chelsea will now play a whopping nine games throughout next month, an exhausting schedule that Mourinho claimed earlier this week that he'd missed while he was in Italy and Spain.

But, if his players are exhausted by one international break, what on earth are they going to be like in January?

Chelsea are through to the next stage of the Champions League but, right now, you wouldn't back them to go much further.

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