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Football: Mour the merrier as Jose handed a Porto return.

Byline: MARTIN LIPTON in Monaco

JOSE MOURINHO did not bother ringing Claudio Ranieri for advice about the Chelsea team he inherited in the summer.

And nobody on the planet could know more about Chelsea's most dangerous group stage opponents than the man who led Porto to glory in Gelsenkirchen in May.

Mourinho must have half-expected it, but even the Chelsea boss would have found it difficult to suppress a smile when the Champions League draw offered him a return to Porto.

Barely three months after Mourinho turned his back on Porto's celebration party after his side had conquered Europe, the Stamford Bridge chief was handed a trip back to Estadio Dragao.

Porto president Nuno Pinto Da Costa was furious with Chelsea over their pursuit of Mourinho and last night Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon and his opposite number in Portugal tried to play down talk of a simmering feud.

Mourinho, whose side also face CSKA Moscow and Paris St Germain, travel to Portugal for their final Group H game on December 7. But the Blues chief will not be the only familiar Chelsea face to Porto fans - defenders Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira also followed him to west London. Porto director Fernando Gomes said: "I can't see why we shouldn't be friends. He is not the first manager to have left us after winning the championship."

Kenyon suggested that Mourinho was already excited. "I spoke to Jose and he's well up for it," he said. "It's always emotional going back to your old club but our aim is to make sure we go through.

"Since we appointed Jose we've done several major deals with Porto and there's no question of them suggesting there was any wrong-doing."

Mourinho's predecessor Ranieri may not go along with the idea of Abramovich and Kenyon as straight-dealers after the way his sacking was handled. And it was ironic that as the current Chelsea boss was being named coach of the year in Monaco, the Italian was back in the place where his hopes of hanging on to the job were ended.

Ranieri's blunders in the 3-1 semi-final first-leg defeat to Monaco killed him in Abramovich's eyes and as he prepared for new club Valencia's European Super Cup match against Porto, he revealed the lack of contact.

Ranieri said: "Mourinho hasn't phoned me, although I understand because everybody has his own ideas."

Chelsea should be confident of making it through to the knock-out stage and two of the Premiership's other representatives fared equally well.

Manchester United visit French champions Lyon in their opening game on September 15 and while Turkish side Fenerbahce will offer a hostile welcome, they and Sparta Prague should not trouble too much.

CAPTION(S):

JUST CHAMPION: Jose Mourinho is excited about facing his old club in Europe
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 27, 2004
Words:465
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