TBH

Tal Ben Haim is looking forward to Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Champions League clash against Chelsea

by Andrew Sherwood

Tal Ben Haim hopes Maccabi Tel Aviv can extend Chelsea’s miserable start to the season when he plays against his former club in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

The Israel defender spent one season with the Premier League champions in 2007-08, a campaign which began under Jose Mourinho before his swift exit in September 2007.

Chelsea’s woeful start to the current campaign – four points from five Premier League games – has led many to draw comparisons with eight years ago and Ben Haim is another reminder of a difficult time for the Blues.

“Everyone is surprised,” said the defender, when asked about Chelsea’s worst start to a season in 29 years.

“I’m sure everyone’s surprised and not happy. I’m sure they’re going to get over that and start winning games very fast.

“(But) I hope that it’s not going to be tomorrow.”

Ben Haim, who will not celebrate if he scores against the Blues, worked with Mourinho for just a few months after his arrival in London.

“I learned a lot in four months under him,” Ben Haim said. “I regret it was a very, very short period, because I’m sure I could have improved a lot if I continued to play under him. But it’s part of football.

“I’m sure he’s going to prepare the team very, very well.

“I know even when we played against weaker teams he always prepared us like we were going to play a Champions League final.

“I’m sure they’re going to prepare and take us very seriously.”

Chelsea would usually be expected to brush aside a team managed by their former midfielder Slavisa Jokanovic, but Maccabi Tel Aviv advanced to the group stages at the expense of Basle, the Swiss side who in 2013-14 twice beat the Blues.

Jokanovic guided Watford into the Premier League last term – he also led them out at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup third-round loss in January – before moving to Tel Aviv, and knows there are differences between him and Mourinho.

“Probably he’s driving a better car than what I have,” said the Serbian, who hopes to restrict a defensive-minded Chelsea.

“We must respect this club, this team, this manager, one of the best in Europe. What is more important is we must respect ourselves, we must respect our team too, our supporters and try to offer our best in this moment.

“Against Crystal Palace and against Everton – they defend with 11 players.

“We’re going to defend all together. Working all together, defend all together and be ready for what’s in front of us.”

Jokanovic says Chelsea’s start to the season is “not my business” and expects a reaction, although he expressed hope Saturday’s upcoming match with Arsenal could be on their minds.

“Probably they’re going to be with extra concentration, extra motivation in this moment to try to fix some problems that they have,” Jokanovic said.

“I prefer if it’s possible they’re thinking a little bit more about Arsenal than our game, but I don’t believe (that).”