TONIGHT’S match is about far more than just who reaches the next round. Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho were both hired because they have won the Champions League; both can expect the axe to be sharpened if they do not look like repeating that feat at their latest clubs.
Ancelotti is only in his first season at Chelsea, so can expect another crack at the big prize if he lands either the FA Cup or Premier League in May. But the Italian, who won the trophy with AC Milan in 2007, knows his European pedigree is his greatest asset and only has to look at the short tenures of his predecessors to see what prolonged failure brings.
Mourinho already has one disappointing Champions League campaign under his belt at Inter Milan, having crashed at the last 16 stage last year. Another season of disappointment would only heap further pressure on the Portuguese who, despite continued success in Serie A, has not settled well in Italy. Roberto Mancini, whom Mourinho replaced, found that even three consecutive league titles could not save his job, having flopped in Europe. And if the former Porto boss has aspirations of taking charge at Real Madrid in the summer, he will want to improve on the last 16-stage exit suffered by the cash-haemorrhaging Spaniards.
Neither Ancelotti or Mourinho is fond of the other, so what better way to improve their own job security than by turning up the heat on their bitter rival?