Mourinho says Real will be at their best


JOSE MOURINHO has warned Manchester City that Real Madrid will be “at our best” when they face them at the Bernabeu in their opening Champions League group game tonight.

The Spanish champions are reeling from a poor start to the season that continued with Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Sevilla, which left them eight points behind the leaders, Barcelona.

“To play against City motivates me as much as playing against Getafe,” said Mourinho.

“To win the Champions League motivates me like any other match. Motivation is something intrinsic to the job. The conviction is that tomorrow [on Tuesday evening] we will have a team. A determined, compact and solid team. I will try to field the team that I think will show up.

“Maybe we won’t be as relaxed, or filled with the same conviction and confidence we usually have against an opponent like City, coming off a game which was terrible.

“I’m sure we’ll be at our best. I could be wrong but that’s what I think. The line-up will not be very different [from Sevilla], nor will I try to show any player that they are not in the best condition. It will be the best that I consider to play against an opposition full of players of the highest level.

“I don’t believe I have created doubts. The principal person responsible is me. When my teams win, we win together, and when we lose, I am the one responsible. Before losing to Sevilla I said to the players what I then said in the press conference. For this reason it is not a criticism but a conviction.

“I said it to them before the game. Football is about today and tomorrow, not yesterday. Yesterday is history. I haven’t been able to keep my players motivated and concentrated at the top level and that is my fault.”

Mourinho shrugged off the idea that Real’s poor start in La Liga adds extra pressure to achieve success in a competition they have not won for a decade.

“At this level players and managers have already won things,” he said. “All of us have titles, professional and economic stability, we needn’t be worried about people nor waiting on their reaction.”

While Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero has “a chance” of starting following his knee injury, Roberto Mancini said, David Silva, who signed a new five-year contract yesterday worth a basic €148,000 a week, is wary of Madrid’s indifferent form. “It is clear that, when everything is going well, they play with more confidence,” he said.

“When they have doubts, it is difficult. Maybe it is more dangerous because they are not at a good moment and we could waken the beast in them. But we hope it will be a good match.”

Last season City failed to emerge from the group stage despite winning 10 points from a group containing Napoli, Villarreal and Bayern Munich.

This campaign appears harder, with Madrid joined by Borussia Dortmund and Ajax in a group formed of domestic champions. While Mourinho is unsure if City can win the Champions League this term, the former Chelsea manager, who collected the trophy with Porto and Internazionale, believes they will claim the competition soon.

The Portuguese said City under Sheikh Mansour is similar to Chelsea under Roman Abramovich. “I don’t think it is very different to Chelsea,” he said.

“Since Roman bought the club [in 2003, Claudio] Ranieri was the first coach, then I came and we won the first league, some cups and some more titles. Carlo [Ancelotti] then came and they continued to win and finally they won the Champions League.

“With City it started off with Mark Hughes, they started spending money and buying good players. Then Roberto [Mancini] came and he has done a very good job. He has created a great squad, the first cup [the FA Cup in 2010] then the first title arrived.

“I don’t know if it is this season or next season with Roberto, or with another person in the future, but normally in the direction the club is going, sooner or later they will win the big cup.”

Mancini’s managerial record in the Champions League is poor, with the four years he spent in charge of Internazionale before leaving the club in 2008 yielding only two quarter-finals.

But he defended this by claiming he has not had the players before.

“If you drive a Ferrari you can win,” he said. “We used to drive a Fiat Cinquecento, and it is not so easy, but now we drive a Ferrari.”

Mourinho v Mancini: This one is personal . . . .

WHEN José Mourinho replaced Roberto Mancini at Internazionale in 2008, the tension between them was acknowledged without being explicit. They weren’t jilted lovers, rather rivals in a complex love triangle – with Inter at the centre, writes Michael Cox.

Mourinho encounters constant problems with his partners’ exes – at Real he has criticised Manuel Pellegrinis efforts. “Second place? It’s just the first loser,” he scoffed before Pellegrini returned with Málaga. Mourinho invited him into the Real dressingroom but the Chilean didn’t want to glimpse his former companions new relationship. Previously, Mourinho had launched an even nastier war with his Chelsea predecessor Claudio Ranieri. “They (Chelsea) wanted to win and it was never going to happen with him,” he sneered. “It is really not my fault if he was considered a loser.” Again, the “losing” was second place.

Few stand up to him. “Everyone has their own way of thinking, being and acting,” Pellegrini said. “I’m different, as I like respect and I give respect,” Ranieri said. But Mancini is different. He won three consecutive Serie A titles, so the “loser” tag doesn’t fit, and Mourinho’s criticism was more sheepish. “I don’t see Mancini’s shadow over me,” he insisted at Inter. “I’m indifferent to it.” Mancini even dares to take credit for Inter’s success under Mourinho. “Did I build the foundations? I built the roof too!” he claimed. “The most difficult thing is to start a cycle. The rest follows as a consequence.”

But Mourinho won the Champions League, Mancini’s achilles heel. The Portuguese coach has triumphed twice, while Mancini couldn’t manage a semi-final at Inter. This meeting, in Mourinho’s backyard, in Mourinho’s competition, is a huge challenge for Mancini.

These are similar coaches – keen tacticians who demand caution and share a deep mistrust of inconsistent wingers. In their Uefa Cup meeting 10 seasons ago Mourinho’s Porto beat Lazio 4-1 on aggregate. “They played a 4-5-1 in the first game, then switched to three at the back for the return leg!” raved the Portuguese. “They (Italians) think of football in relation to the opponent, and change the way they play accordingly. It takes one to know one.

Both have become more proactive – as they overthrew their biggest rival to win the title last season, But Real and City were too frantic and vertical for European competition. City were unsuited to the tempo, lacking a steady passing midfielder, hence the purchase of Javí García.

Real lacked control away at Bayern Munich in last year’s semi, when Mesut Ozil made forward darts from midfield but was overshadowed by Bayern’s Toni Kroos, who sat deeper while Bayern outnumbered Real in the centre. In response, Mourinho signed Luka Modric. To win this competition, both must create a more mature team.

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