Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has warned his players that Maccabi Tel Aviv are good enough to beat them ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League opener at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues go into the game as strong favourites despite their disastrous start to the defence of their Premier League title, that has left them 17th in the table after five matches.
But Mourinho revealed he was impressed by what he saw after doing intensive preparation on Chelsea’s opponents from Israel.
“They are good enough to beat us,” he said at his pre-match press conference.
“I respect them. I watched them play in many matches, I did my study, I know their team. I also had information that in the last week they have trained with a different system and will probably play five defenders.
“Watford did that last season with the same manager, so we prepare for both – for them playing their normal way and also ready if they come with five defenders. We know what to do. We trust ourselves and we think we can win the game, but respect is a good saying in football.
“We know we are a better team, we have to prove that in the game.”
Mourinho urged his players to prove they still belonged at Champions League level but does not want to prioritise the competition over Chelsea’s league endeavours.
He continued: “You have to go game to game. We know we are points behind in the Premier League but in the Champions League we know we need to qualify because it is important for the club economically and for us as professionals.
“We feel we belong to the Champions League not the Europa League and if we can get three points on Wednesday it would be a first step for us.
“It would be easy for me to say that [I prioritise the Champions League] but I cannot tell you something that is not true. We do not prioritise competitions.”
Chelsea have a formidable record in the group stage, particularly at home. They have only lost one of their last 35 matches at Stamford Bridge in the initial stage of the competition.