Mourinho invokes history
Real Madrid coach: "If we don't win this year, then next"
José Mourinho has written the book on downplaying the importance of a soccer match, then winning it by whatever means at his disposal. His teams do not always merit the epithet that Ruud Gullit attached to his Chelsea side before Mourinho unpacked his pragmatism in West London - "sexy football" - but the Portuguese gets results. However, even the cast-iron defense mechanism he has patented will not be able to deflect the harshest criticism from alighting on his team if it fails for a seventh consecutive season to reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League against Lyon on Wednesday night (local stations, 8.45pm).
"If Real Madrid has won nine (European Cup titles) and it is obsessed... imagine those that have never won it. Real Madrid does not need to be obsessed but calm. The tenth will come naturally, not with obsession. We'll get there by working well, if not this season then next," Mourinho told a press conference. Slipping into third person, the Real coach added for good measure: "Mourinho is one of three who has won the competition twice with two clubs. If he does not win again, he will continue in history, but he wants to win for a third time."
Standing in the way is a Lyon side weakened by the suspension of Michel Bastos but buoyed by an equalizing goal in Stade Gerland and the ponderous weight of its own history resting on Real's shoulders; the Spanish team has never beaten its Ligue 1 counterpart. Neither does it have to do so tonight - a goalless tie would see Real through.
In Mourinho's favor is home advantage but the likely return of Cristiano Ronaldo, who has missed the team's last two matches through injury, is no balm to the Portuguese's pre-match blandishments. Real has won its last two matches without the number 7 and has arguably looked a better team when shorn of the consummate individualist. Karim Benzema scored four in those 180 minutes and he and Emmanuel Adebayor have shown they can operate in a two-striker system. If Ronaldo is selected, one will return to the bench.
"If he is ready, he will play," said Mourinho of the world's costliest player. "If not, a phenomenal player who can decide the tie won't play, but we have a team."
Mourinho also exhorted the crowd to get behind Real. "The Bernabéu I know is quiet," he noted. "It applauds when the team plays well but I have not seen a Bernabéu that can say it has 'played.' People tell me that in the moment of truth the Bernabéu is there and tomorrow is the moment of truth." For 90 minutes tonight, whatever the final result, Mourinho can rest assured that the Bernabéu will have its say.