A war of words, a clash of cultures

Soccer/ Uefa Champions League : If Chelsea can show as much stamina in their work as their manager does in holding a grudge, …

Soccer/ Uefa Champions League: If Chelsea can show as much stamina in their work as their manager does in holding a grudge, they will be ready to come through extra-time and even a penalty shoot-out against Barcelona this evening.

Jose Mourinho is still angry about most of what happened during the 2-1 defeat at Camp Nou in the first leg of the Champions League tie. He implied last night that the referee, Anders Frisk, had been partisan.

Chelsea are preparing a report to Uefa over the allegation that Barcelona's coach had a suspicious meeting with the Swede in the officials' room at the interval. The visitors' centre-forward, Didier Drogba, was, in Mourinho's view, wrongly sent off in the second half.

There was some lovingly crafted contempt for the referee yesterday. "If you asked me who I would want for this game I would say Anders Frisk," Mourinho stated.


For anyone who missed the sly slur, the manager hinted that the high-profile official plays to whichever gallery he happens to be facing. "Maybe he would help us the same way he helped (Barcelona)."

Uefa may well have to take on a night shift in Geneva to deal with all the disciplinary investigations that arise from Chelsea's stance. It will now be difficult for them to ignore the impugning of Frisk's integrity. The ruling body are likely to charge Chelsea over their late emergence for the second half at Camp Nou and for their refusal to attend the post-match press conference.

To the admittedly inconsequential nature of the latter sin, Mourinho argued that the club felt it was better not to comment before Uefa had looked into any allegations they may have had about Frisk. The Uefa spokesman, William Gaillard, has already spoken unhappily of Mourinho's supposed prediction that this evening's game would be refereed by Pierluigi Collina.

The manager has been proved correct, but he explained yesterday he had been expressing a wish rather than flaunting clandestine knowledge of Uefa's affairs. "It's a shame an organisation the size of Uefa should misrepresent my words," he grumbled. He contrived to extol Collina while taking another swipe at Frisk. "Every manager would say he is the best referee in the world because he doesn't influence games," the Portuguese said of the Italian.

The unavailability of Drogba, dismissed with a second yellow card at Camp Nou, rankles with Mourinho. "We feel Drogba should be in the game," he said. "We played without him for half an hour in the first match and now we don't have our main striker for the second match."

When asked about his rivals' probable selection, Barcelona's Frank Rijkaard kept repeating the name Arjen Robben. The Chelsea forward has not played since breaking a foot on February 2nd and Mourinho has now declared that there will not be a place for him even on a bench which will feature Scott Parker, who has recovered from a similar injury.

Rijkaard will suppose that his opposite number is bluffing, but it would be a severe risk to send out Robben, who could suffer a recurrence of the problem and miss the remainder of the season.

There will be joy at Stamford Bridge if Chelsea take up 90 minutes to enter a guilty plea to Barcelona's scornful allegations. Mourinho's side will go through on the away-goal rule so long as they record the sort of 1-0 victory for which they are so often excoriated.

It may be a recognition of this truth that made Ronaldinho speak so contemptuously about Chelsea's utilitarian style. Perhaps he believes the Stamford Bridge side can be provoked into taking undue risks to prove him wrong.

Just in case those players had not been listening, the Barcelona left-back, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, popped up with another bad review for the display in Catalonia.

"We expected more of Chelsea," said the former Arsenal defender, "because they have a lot of good players and the way they played was surprising."

In so delicately balanced a tie, it was natural that there should be a counterweight of diplomacy.

Rijkaard left the slights to his players and avoided making adverse observations about Mourinho.

The Barcelona coach is missing the injured centre-back Rafael Marquez, but it will take more than that to make his opposite number act rashly. Mourinho is on a mission to weed out such recklessness from the typical approach of Premiership clubs.

There are no apologies for his methods. He spoke about meeting a man in Sloane Square who, like him, was born in 1963. This Chelsea fan begged him to win the league title that has not come in his lifetime. Mourinho implies that he is building a side of multi-purpose practicality.

"The way Chelsea play in England couldn't win the Spanish league because Chelsea is a team made to win the Premiership. The way Barcelona are made they couldn't win the English league. They are a team made for Spanish culture and Spanish people. They play beautiful football. They don't have to dive so much."

Rijkaard came strangely close to agreement when he judged that Chelsea pursue results with complete pragmatism whereas Barcelona have one eye on entertaining their season ticket holders. He hastily added that winning was also very important. A collision of mentalities and philosophies awaits at Stamford Bridge.

Guardian Service