Cool Carlo ready for Mourinho
Jose Mourinho will roll out the red carpet to welcome Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to Milan on Wednesday - whether the self-appointed "Special One" will afford Carlo Ancelotti the same privilege is another story.
Mourinho will be in touch with Abramovich via text before Inter Milan and Chelsea meet in the San Siro to ensure the Russian's every wish is met - apart from a place in the last eight of competition that is becoming an obssession for both clubs.
Ancelotti needs no assistance to find his way around Milan after five years and two European Cups as a player and nine years and two Champions League successes as coach of Inter's fiercest rivals - and Mourinho is unlikely to be in the mood to give it to him after the pair endured a fractious relationship in Serie A last season.
Mourinho, predictably and with the undisguised mischief that makes him so sorely missed in the Premier League, has already provided the vocal colour as a backdrop to the tie. And the great joy for Chelsea is that it will bounce off the impassive Ancelotti all day with supreme, even amused, indifference.
Former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday with the Italian champions
And, as he has proved by effectively calling on all Italy's neutrals to throw their weight behind Chelsea as part of an anti-Mourinho faction, Ancelotti is not above the odd verbal counter-punch himself.
Mourinho regards this meeting as the biggest day in the Champions League calendar so far this season. His reunion with Chelsea alone almost assures it, and there are so many sub-plots to back his claim.
Ancelotti and Mourinho made no secret of their lack of friendship when they locked horns last season, with Inter coming out on top by winning the title, but they are united by a common purpose over the two legs of this intriguing tie.
Serie A titles are second nature to Inter, but Europe's greater prize has eluded this proud club since 1965, and Mourinho's main task is to fill that gap in the trophy room.
Ancelotti would be lauded if he won the Premier League this season, but he might find even greater gratitude coming his way from Abramovich should he win the Champions League.
Abramovich's attempts to bring the trophy to Stamford Bridge have so far been fated to failure, either by ill fortune or the foibles of Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo in last season's semi-final against Barcelona. Players and coaches have been changed, huge cheques signed and still no Champions League.
Ancelotti's players feel they have a real opportunity this season, although frailties on their travels will pose a threat to their attempts to claim the trophy if repeated against the sort of opposition they face now.
The atmosphere inside the San Siro will be stoked by Mourinho, although he insists he will take no special pleasure from beating Chelsea and would not expect any of his former players to take added delight in defeating him.
Mourinho's last assignment in England saw him standing defiantly on the touchline at Old Trafford as Inter lost to Manchester United at this stage of the Champions League last season, serenaded with the words "You're Not Special Any More."
He was - it was just that the Inter team he inherited wasn't. The pure box office of the man was illustrated by what became, quite literally in my case, a scrum and a race with three photographers just to claim a seat in Old Trafford's media theatre to hear his verdict.
Mourinho will know the eyes of Europe will be on him in these two meetings with the club where he is correctly idolised for his brilliant work - which is just how he likes it. He will preen and grandstand for the cameras, safe in the knowledge his every move is being monitored. It is why those of us who saw him operate at close quarters wait for the day when he brings his potent cocktail of charisma and controversy back to the Premier League.
He will also want Ancelotti to hear the adulation that will be showered upon him at Stamford Bridge in the second leg, and this season his Inter team looks built a little bit more in Mourinho's own formidable image and likeness.
Ancelotti, in contrast, will play it as cool as ever, laconically raising his eyebrow in the face of Mourinho's verbal jabs, planning quietly to keep his old adversary waiting another year to win the trophy he claimed with Porto in 2004.
And in this instance, the fact the Mourinho built so much of his current team for him might work to Ancelotti's advantage. Sure, Mourinho will know the weakness and work on them - Chelsea's struggles at set pieces this season being an obvious area of potential exploitation - but he will also know the strengths, and there are far more of those.
Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti sees his side start as favourites
Mourinho will study the spine of Chelsea's team, and it will be instantly, ominously, recognisable. Petr Cech, John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho, Frank Lampard and finally Didier Drogba - the powerhouse who poses the biggest threat to his plans.
And, as Cech so rightly pointed out, Chelsea are so familiar with Mourinho's mind games that there is not a set of players in the world better equipped to disregard them completely.
Chelsea start as favourites, despite the air of invincibility restored by Guus Hiddink disappearing on occasions under Ancelotti, but Mourinho's mere presence is a threat.
He is the arch-stategist and consumate plotter, just letting little hints slip that he knows where Chelsea might be vulnerable, letting it be known that he feels they might not be as strong as they once were.
And in bringing in Samuel Eto'o, Diego Milito and the rejuvenated Wesley Sneijder, Mourinho has shaped an impressive renewal of Inter. Zlatan Ibrahimovic's sale to Barcelona has hardly had cataclysmic consequences.
If Mourinho knows Chelsea's strengths, they also know his, namely attention to the minutest tactical detail and a proven ability to produce teams that are fiendishly difficult to beat, even with the sort of numerical disadvantages they have suffered against AC Milan and Sampdoria in recent weeks.
But Chelsea will fancy their chances of progress over two legs. And for all the trademark bluster from Mourinho, he will know that Ancelotti possesses the weapons to bring Inter down.
After all, he left so much of the firepower behind for him.