Ballack braced for tough Inter clash

Michael Ballack reckons Chelsea landed the toughest possible Champions League tie – especially with Jose Mourinho in charge of Inter Milan.

Chelsea meet their former manager at the San Siro on Wednesday having been drawn against the side Ballack reckons were the best of the available last-16 opponents.

And the game is made even harder by the influence of Mourinho, who put together much of the Blues squad himself.

"We have unfortunately, as group winners, been given the toughest draw possible," said Ballack.

"But that doesn’t bother us – we are looking forward to it, also because the former manager Jose Mourinho is coming.

"He still knows us all very well and that gives this game a special explosiveness."

Although it is already more than two and a half years since Mourinho left the Premier League club, his legacy lives on in the squad which has largely remained intact.

Ballack himself was one of Mourinho’s sgnings when he arrived on a free transfer from Bayern Munich and he expects his former manager to be all clued up about his opponents next week.

"There won’t be any information that Mourinho doesn’t know about," said Ballack in an interview with Germany’s Sat.1 television.

"He always knew everything about every opponent, every player and every tactic.

"He knows the players from his time here and only a few new ones have arrived, but the core of the team has remained the same.

"He gave us our style of play which has not changed over the last few years."

And the Germany captain knows it is going to be tough eliminating the Nerazzurri, who he named as one of the favourites to win the competition this season.

"Of course Barcelona as holders and also Manchester United are always among (the favourites)," he said.

"Then there are teams like Inter, Real Madrid and even Bayern Munich.

"Bayern enjoy a lot of respect throughout Europe and their current positive run of form is being noticed.

"If Bayern are to win the Champions League this season, Ballack would prefer it if another of his former clubs won the Bundesliga.

Ballack was part of the Leverkusen side which finished runners-up in the Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB-Pokal in 2002 and he is keeping his fingers crossed that they can go one better this year.

"Leverkusen have the title in their own hands," he said.

"It is only a question of whether they can confirm their performances which, it has to be said, were not expected to be so strong.

"But I believe that this young team has learned from recent years.

"I would be overjoyed if they won the league. After all these years, they really have deserved it."