José Mourinho does not consider Chelsea to be among the leading contenders to win the Champions League this season, with the two-times European Cup-winning manager citing Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid as likelier candidates to hoist the trophy.
Mourinho will see his side secure top spot in Group E with 12 points if they beat winless Steaua Bucharest at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, with thoughts then turning to opponents in the knockout phase in the new year. Although Mourinho conceded every team who progress to the quarter-finals "has a chance" to win the competition, he pointed to Chelsea's development compared with the established pedigree elsewhere as reason to stay realistic.
"I think our chances, this season, which is my first season, are not comparable with the chances other clubs have," said the Chelsea manager. "I think other clubs have completely different stability, squads and [stage of] evolution to be considered the favourites to win the competition. We have reached the last 16. If we reach the quarter-final, which is the next step, then every team in the quarter-final has a chance to win it. In my analysis, I think we are not considered one of the favourites to win the competition.
"In my opinion, my favourites are Bayern: the European champions and a top club, with the same players and a new manager, but unbelievable stability. They won it last year, were in the final the year before, in a final in 2010 and have fantastic stability at this level. Then Barcelona and Real Madrid. And these three teams are, clearly in terms of potential and responsibilities, in front."
Chelsea claimed the trophy for the first time under Roberto Di Matteo in 2012 against Bayern and 14 members of that squad are still at the club but, in Mourinho's opinion, any challenge from the Premier League will have to emerge from the next clutch of clubs. "Other teams are very strong and when one of these teams arrive in the last eight, anything can happen," he said. "These teams are obviously [Manchester] City, [Manchester] United, Atlético Madrid, Chelsea … there is a group of teams that arrive in there but we are still in the first phase.
"The last 16, we will find some difficult crossovers because some important teams will finish second, and you can have second City, Dortmund, Juventus if they don't lose on Tuesday … teams can finish second but could beat any of those who finish first. So, it's an interesting competition as always."