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The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Mourinho baffled by Champions League seedings

Jose Mourinho insists a Champions League draw which could easily pit Chelsea against Barcelona in the group stage must be flawed.

Mourinho's Premiership champions have a one-in-five chance of being grouped with Barca when the draw is made in Monaco tomorrow.

Chelsea will be in the pot of second seeds and, if they avoid the champions of Spain and Europe, they are likely to face AC Milan, Inter Milan, Real Madrid or Valencia.

Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, if the latter qualify, will all be among the first seeds but cannot be drawn with another English team in the groups.

Mourinho still cannot understand how the domestic champions can be ranked beneath three of the teams they beat to the title.

The Chelsea boss said: 'The way the groups are made is wrong, the criteria to be seeded in the groups. For example, the English champions Chelsea are lucky to be second seeds.

'For me, being champions is more important than the past for seeding.

'Inter Milan for example get more coefficient points for the Champions League than us even though Chelsea are champions of England and Inter Milan are only third in Italy.'

UEFA seed the teams based on a coefficient calculated from the performances of the clubs in Europe over the last five years combined with the coefficient of the country they come from.

This system puts new football powers like Chelsea behind the traditional heavyweights of European football.

Liverpool had to qualify this season by beating Maccabi Haifa and Arsenal must finish off Dinamo Zagreb to reach the group stage but they will both be seeded ahead of Chelsea because of their superior coefficient.

Mourinho said: 'How can a team who has to qualify be in front of a team who goes straight into the group?'

Chelsea will expect to qualify from any group because the top two teams progress but, if they are plunged into a tough group and can only finish second, they will face one of the group winners in the first knock-out round.

This happened last season, when the Blues finished behind Liverpool in the group and were then drawn against Barcelona in the second round.

Frank Rijkaard's team won an epic clash and Mourinho's European dream was over in early March.

The Chelsea manager believes the seeding system has a detrimental effect on the overall quality of the competition because so many of the best teams meet in the early stages.

Mourinho said: 'It is the best competition in the world but you don't see the best clubs in the semi-finals.

'For me the competition is not correct and you are in a lucky situation if the best team in Europe wins the competition.

'Compare the semi-finals with the earlier rounds, the last eight or last 16. Compare Arsenal against Villarreal with Arsenal against Juventus, Chelsea against Barcelona or Milan against Bayern Munich. It does not compare.

'Liverpool were champions and over 30 points behind Chelsea in the league, not even in the top four in the Premiership. Arsenal got through to the final but the best they could do [in the league] was fourth.'

Mourinho is chasing his third successive Premiership title with Chelsea this season and the club's first Champions League trophy.

He finds it hard to prefer one above the other but believes he is fighting an uphill battle in Europe because of the coefficient system.

Mourinho said: 'The Premier League is an even competition. The Champions League is not.

'When you decide there is a head of the group, they start in front of the others.

'They are ahead of the group and there are a lot of advantages. If you are second there are a lot of disadvantages. You don't start from zero.

'To win the Champions League when you are not head of the group is a big, big achievement.'