Mourinho issues Chelsea warning: ‘The real Champions League starts now’

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has warned his side “the real Champions League starts now”, after the Blues cruised into the last-16 with a 3-1 home win over Sporting Lisbon.

The Premier League outfit’s spot in the knock-out stages was already confirmed, as well as their top of the table finish, ahead of the game but they rounded off their Group G campaign with a flourish with Cesc Fabregas,Andre Schurrle and John Obi Mikel all on the scoresheet.

It was a stroll for the hosts at Stamford Bridge, a reflection of the group as a whole as they knocked in a tournament high of 17 goals, but Mourinho insists Chelsea are in for a sterner test after Christmas.

The Blues could play Juventus, Basle, Bayer Leverkusen, Paris St Germain or Shakhtar Donestsk in February’s first knockout round, and the manager is keen to avoid one of the “sharks in the ocean” ahead of Monday’s draw.

“I don’t think any of the big teams is out of the Champions League now. Maybe Liverpool,” Mourinho said.

“But all the teams that want to win the competition, they’re all in the competition.

“Everybody’s there, so the Champions League starts now.

“What can we do? I don’t know. Last year we were close and we didn’t have the team playing at such a high level as we do this season so we can dream we will do it.

“But let’s see if the sharks let us, because there are a few sharks in the ocean.”

Immediately after the match Mourinho insisted he has no preference for the last-16, but would not underestimate any opponent.

“The draw is the draw,” the boss said. “We have five possible opponents.

“I’m happy [Manchester] City and Arsenal went through. I’m not happy they finished second because they blocked two other possible opponents.

“Paris would be good, because it’s easy to travel for us, for the fans. It would be good, but we can’t decide the draw.

“The hardest? Everyone is hard. You think Basle is easy? We lost twice against them last year. They beat Liverpool and three years ago they beat Manchester United.

“Leverkusen, Shakhtar… I don’t think there are any easy teams at that moment.”