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'Betrayed' Mourinho turns on Chelsea players

Published:Monday | December 14, 2015 | 11:12 PMAP
AP Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho reacts during the English Premier League soccer match against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium in Leicester, England, Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. Leicester won the match 2-1

LEICESTER, England (AP):

The most remarkable Premier League story in years shows no sign of ending. After only narrowly avoiding relegation last campaign, Leicester (35 points) lead the heavyweights (Arsenal, 33, Manchester City, 32, Manchester United, 32) of England by at least two points nearly halfway through this season.

Jamie Vardy (34th) and Riyad Mahrez (48th) scored for Leicester, while Loic Remy reduced the deficit close to time.

"It's magical," said Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri, who used to coach Chelsea. "I don't want to wake up."

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho turned on his players after the team's latest loss in their dreadful English Premier League title defence, saying yesterday he felt "betrayed" and accusing them of not trying their best.

"If I was a player, I'd be giving a lot more," Mourinho said after a 2-1 loss that left Chelsea (15) one point off the relegation zone after 16 games.

Chelsea, which won the Premier League by eight points and with three games to spare last season, have lost nine games so far and are 20 points off the lead.

"All last season I did a phenomenal work and I brought them to a level that is not their level, it is more than they really are," said Mourinho, who appeared at a loss to explain Chelsea's regression.

"I feel my work was betrayed," he added, as he criticised the defending for Leicester's goals.

Asked if Chelsea can still qualify for the Champions League, Mourinho said: "We can't finish top four, but we can still finish top six because so many teams are dropping points. But at the moment we're in a zone where I feel ashamed."

Even before the Leicester loss, Mourinho acknowledged he is in the toughest spell of his managerial career.

"The only thing I can say is that I want to be the manager," Mourinho said. "I have no doubts and I think you know me well enough to know that I am not afraid of a big challenge and in this moment it is a really big challenge.

"I want to stay and I hope (Chelsea owner) Mr. (Roman) Abramovich and the board want me to stay."

Champions League draw

Meanwhile, the Champions League draw produced some familiar pairings yesterday with defending champion Barcelona facing Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain again taking on Chelsea.

Barcelona eliminated Arsenal in the 2010 quarterfinals and in the round of 16 in 2011 and beat the English club in the 2006 final.

Arsenal will host the five-time champions on February 23 after advancing to the knockout round for the 16th straight season. The Gunners will be hoping to end a five-year losing streak at the round-of-16 stage.

French champions PSG and Chelsea will be meeting for the third consecutive season in the knockout phase. Chelsea won in the quarter-finals in 2014, but PSG advanced from the round of 16 last season.

Also, five-time champions Bayern Munich will play away first against 2015 runner-ups Juventus, while record 10-time champions Real Madrid will face Roma.

Still, there was one fresh look in the eight pairings as the two newcomers to the knockout rounds were drawn together: Gent will host Wolfsburg first in Belgium.

Also, it was: PSV Eindhoven vs Atletico Madrid; Dynamo Kiev vs Manchester City; and Benfica vs Zenit St. Petersburg. City's first leg in Kiev will be played in an empty stadium because Dynamo has been sanctioned by UEFA for racist incidents involving fans.

The first legs will be played on Feb. 16-17 and 23-24, with the second legs scheduled for March 8-9 and 15-16.