Third straight European trophy looks beyond Chelsea's reach

Thu Nov 7, 2013 4:58am EST
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By Mike Collett

LONDON (Reuters) - After last season's Champions League blip when they failed to advance from their group but still won the Europa League, Chelsea are well placed to reach the last 16 of the elite competition again in the next few weeks.

Last season's failure in the Champions League seven months after being crowned European champions was later tempered by beating Benfica in the Europa League final in Amsterdam, but whether they can go on to win a European trophy for the third successive season is a matter of some considerable doubt.

Their flattering 3-0 win over Schalke 04 at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday put them in a commanding position at the top of Group E and they need just one point from two remaining matches at Basel on November26 and at home to Steaua Bucharest on December11 to make the last 16.

That would mean they would avoid the ignominy of being relegated down to the Europa League again this season and so cannot retain that trophy, but the team Jose Mourinho currently has at his disposal seems ill-equipped to cope with the current best in Europe.

Mourinho knows all about winning the big prizes, having tasted success in the Champions League with Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan in 2010 and he is still likely to become the first man to lift the European Cup with three different clubs.

That third club could well be Chelsea in the next few seasons, but on the evidence provided in their last two matches, it's doubtful if it will happen back in his native Portugal at Benicia's Stadium of Light in next May' s final.

Chelsea needed a freakish goal from Samuel Eto'o after 31 minutes break the deadlock on Wednesday after Schalke, beaten 3-0 at home by the Londoners two weeks ago, started the better team.

They went on to win with a second Eto'o goal and one from Demba Ba but the night was not without its problems for Mourinho and his men.   Continued...

Chelsea's Samuel Eto'o shoots to score a goal against FC Schalke 04 during their Champions League soccer match at Stamford Bridge in London November 6, 2013. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh