Mourinho: "Champions League is the Special One"

Jose Mourinho gave an interview to the British TV 'Sky Sports' and said that "the Champions League is the Special One". Real Madrid coach went through his entire career in the competition and stated that "the Champions League title won with Inter Milan was the best moment of my career". It was the first of the Italian team in 40 years and Mourinho admitted that "it was a special moment for the president Moratti and for a group of players who, by age, only had that opportunity to win the Champions League. We really enjoyed it", said Mourinho.

Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho

"The day after the elimination in the Champions League against Bayern Munich was a bad day managing Real Madrid but you can not mourn for a week. But when you stop to think about it, a semifinal defeat in a penalty shoot-out hurts", said Mourinho in the interview. Jose Mourinho also spoke of the current situation being experienced by Real Madrid in the Champions League after sorting. "Real Madrid wants the Tenth European Cup and I look for my third with a different team. That would be special to me. Calmly we will succeed" he said.

Real Madrid has gone on to the last-16 round as runner-up of the group. Maybe a problem because white team will have to face against a winner of other group and will play the second leg away from the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. This situation does not worry Jose Mourinho.

First, because Mourinho has won two Champions League after classifying his teams as runners-up. In the 2003-04 season, Porto was behind Real Madrid in Group F. Portuguese team only lost one match (against Real Madrid, 1-3), drew two and won three. In the last-16 round, won the first leg against Manchester United 2-1, and managed a draw 1-1 in England. Olympique Lyon was their next opponent. Porto beat French team 2-0 at the Portuguese city and tie again (2-2) in France. In the semifinals, also played first at home against Deportivo La Coruña (0-0) and won the match played in Spain (0-1). In the final, Monaco was no match for the Mourinho's team, so Porto achieved the second European Cup of its history.

With Inter Milan, six years later, Mourinho repeated the way: from the second place in Group F, behind Barcelona (with only two wins, three draws and one defeat) to lift the trophy at the Bernabeu stadium. Like Porto, Inter faced the three knock-out rounds with field disadvantage. In the first, knocked Chelsea (2-1 in Milan, 0-1 in London). In the quarter-finals defeated CSKA Moscow (1-0 in the first leg, and 0-1 in the Russian field). And, in the semifinals against Barcelona, 3-1 at San Siro and 1-0 in the Camp Nou. Finally, 2-0 against Bayern Munchen in the final match, played in Madrid.

It was his last game with Inter before signing for Real Madrid. With Whites he has reached the semifinals in his first two seasons, winning the group stage in both. In this season, Mourinho's team will play the first knock-out round against an opponent to be determined, and that in the worst case could be Bayern Munchen (the tormentor last season) or Manchester United. Shakhtar and Juventus would be hard teams, but less complicated. The other options are Porto or PSG (group A) and Schalke or Arsenal (group B). Potential rivals, although they seem far from the level of the major candidates to lift the trophy in the final at Wembley, on 25 May 2013.

Manchester City 1 - 1 Real Madrid (Champions League, Day 5)

Real Madrid drew against Manchester City in their first official visit to the English team and sealed their qualification to the Champions League round of 16. The Whites, who had an outstanding first half in which they shot 12 times, went in at halftime with an advantage following Benzema’s goal, but the Citizens equalised the match in the second half after Agüero converted an unjust penalty that involved the expulsion of Arbeloa. The Whites endured almost 20 minutes a man down (the referee added five minutes) at the Etihad Stadium, where the home team made it 20 matches unbeaten in European competition, and sealed their place in the next round in Mourinho’s 100th Champions League match.

Khedira and Benzema celebrate the goal against Manchester City
Karim Benzema scored the Real Madrid goal

The champions of the two biggest leagues in the world faced one another with two very different objectives. Real Madrid were looking to qualify for the round of 16 and trying to do so as group leaders, while City were playing for sheer survival in the continental showpiece. A defeat at the Etihad Stadium would have meant that they were virtually out of the tournament. Aware of their opponents’ greater needs and the support given to the English team off of the pitch, Real Madrid started with the premise of keeping possession of the ball and wearing the Citizens down.

Those tactics worked like a charm in the first half for Jose Mourinho, who today became centenarian in the competition. Di María, who along with Khedira was one of the changes to the Portuguese’s starting line-up from the last match, passed from the right in the 10th minute to Benzema who put the ball into the net with his first touch. 0-1. Real Madrid made tournament history by becoming the only team to have scored in 15 consecutive away matches and the Frenchman was up to his old tricks again after his display against Athletic.

From that moment onwards City disappeared from the match and the Whites kept increasing their superiority. In fact, the visitors had three chances to extend their lead in just four minutes. Khedira, very active throughout the match, had the first two following accurate Ronaldo crosses from the left, but both of the German’s shots went wide: the first with his right foot in the 13th minute and the second with his head minutes later. Nevertheless, the clearest fell at the boots of the Portuguese in a move almost identical to the one that ended in a goal at the Signal Iduna Park against Borussia Dortmund. A great pass in behind the centre backs by Xabi Alonso (in Germany it was Özil who made the pass) and the Portuguese found himself alone in front of Hart in the 16th minute. His subsequent chip only failed to produce a goal thanks to the good fortune of Nastasic, who cleared the ball off of the line. The attacking display was forceful and Real Madrid who created almost all of the dangerous moves of the first half, went into the break having had 12 shots (including seven on goal) against only three from their opponents (one on target).

The script of the match changed completely in the second half. Manchester City their lines pushed forward and the match became more end-to-end. The home team, which on 60 minutes had three forwards on the pitch (Agüero, Dzeko and Tévez), went for broke and left gaps at the back that Real Madrid tried to take advantage of on the counterattack. Khedira, following another Ronaldo cross was again close to scoring with his head, but Hart caught the ball in the 57th minute. The warning from the visitors livened up the home team. A Maicon cross-shot found Agüero alone in front of goal at the far post. A miraculous Casillas blocked the shot in the 64th minute and prevented the scores from being brought level.

He could not do the same again nine minutes later. Gianluca Rocchi gave a penalty for a nonexistent Arbeloa shirt-tug against Agüero and also showed a second yellow to Whites’ academy player. The Argentine converted from the sport and Mourinho immediately replaced Benzema, who left the field in some discomfort, with Varane. From then until the end, Real Madrid suffered for 20 minutes with ten men (the referee added five minutes), but earned a valuable draw at the Etihad Stadium which means that they qualify for the round of 16.


Stadium: Etihad Stadium
Attendance: 47,826
Goals: 0-1 min. 10 Benzema; 1-1 min. 74 Agüero (pen).


Real Madrid 5 - 1 Athletic Bilbao (Spanish League, Day 12)

Real Madrid are in cruise control in the league. The Whites thrashed Athletic, last season’s cup and Europa League runners-up, entertained the Bernabéu and secured their fifth straight win in the championship four days before the important Champions League match against City. The match was an attacking exhibition from the home team, who scored five goals, smashed the ball against the woodwork and saw two of the Basque side’s defenders make goal line stops preventing the advantage being even greater. An Aurtenetxe own goal and goals from Ramos and Benzema had settled the match in just over half an hour. Ibai, just before half-time, reduced the arrears, but Özil and Khedira in the second half closed out the match. The Frenchman deserved a special mention on his return to the pitch: he made the first goal, scored the third, and got the assist for the fourth and provoked a constant feeling of fear in the opposing defence. The ovation that his fans gave when he was replaced by Morata spoke for itself.

Benzema with Pepe celebrate a goal
Karim Benzema celebrating his goal against Athletic Bilbao

Real Madrid returned to the Santiago Bernabeu eleven days after their previous home match. It has been impregnable so far this season, and was once again with Benzema and Modric as the changes in Mourinho’s eleven following last weekend’s important victory in the City of Valencia Stadium. It was a combination of these two players that put Real Madrid ahead in the 12th minute. A precision pass from the Croatian from inside his own half which the Frenchman took out of the air on the edge of the area and Aurtenetxe, whilst attempting to clear the ball, chipped the ball over Iraizoz, who is half way out of his goal. It was the first chance of the match for the Whites. Ronaldo, on two consecutive occasions (4th and 5th minutes), and Callejón in the 7th minute had chances before the goal.

The goal spurred the home team on greatly who had played the first fifteen minutes well enough to deserve a bigger advantage on the scoreboard. Another chance for Ronaldo came in the 13th minute and an even clearer one for Callejon, who bamboozled the centre-back Ekiza on the goal-line and went around the visitors’ keeper but couldn’t score. Athletic tried to improve their game by concentrating on ball control, but their goal was still under constant threat. The next chance didn’t come from any of the attacking players, instead it was Ramos, who joined the attack from a corner taken by Özil and forced Iraizoz into making a miraculous one-handed save in the 23rd minute. It was the prelude to the second goal of the night, which came seven minutes later. The play was similar to the earlier one. Özil took the free-kick and Ramos full length diving header gave him his first Real Madrid goal of the season.

The match looked to be decided and soon took the home team increased the lead in what was a work of art. In the 32nd minute, Xabi Alonso, smarter than anyone, took quick free-kick on the edge of the area, Callejón controlled the ball and gave it to Benzema. The Frenchman received the ball with his back to goal and with Ekiza on top of him, he set up the ball and with the outside of his foot and from out wide he turned and beat Iraizoz with a beautiful left-footed curler. The Frenchman could not have be more precise on his return to the field: he caused the first goal and scored the third in just over half an hour of play (later getting the assist to the fourth scored by Özil), combined well with his teammates and caused a constant feeling of fear in the opposing defence. The match seemed settled and came even closer to being so following cross from Ronaldo that Callejón his against the post, but Athletic did not want to give up so soon and Ibai, in the first shot on goal from the visitors reduced the deficit in the 42nd minute. 3-1. The advantage at the break was significant, but not unassailable.

The first chances of the second half, despite Bielsa opting to bring on Llorente and play with two strikers, were for the home team. The tireless Ronaldo, who played despite the injury that he suffered from the elbow he received against Levante, shot again from the edge of the area, but Iraizoz caught the ball. The Whites did not miss in the next dangerous play which came in the 58th minute. Benzema controlled the ball with his heel outside the area, and saw the arrival of Özil out of the corner of his eye and puts the ball on a plate for German who only had to put it to the net. 4-1 and Real Madrid were enjoying playing in their stadium. Benzema display was lethal and the Frenchman almost got another deserved goal but Aurtenetxe made a goal line clearance. The Frenchman’s control with the outside of his foot and chip over the visiting keeper in the 58th minute deserved a better outcome.

Khedira, who had replaced his compatriot Özil in 60th minute, did manage to get another. The German received the ball from Arbeloa, who controlled the flanks dangerously throughout the match, and with his first shot on goal in the 72nd beat Iraizoz at the far post. 5-1 and, as Ramos did in the first half, the German international opened his goal-scoring account this season. Two minutes later Mourinho took off Benzema for Morata and the ovation that the Bernabéu gave them both was thunderous. It was deserved for a team that secured its fifth straight win in the league just four days before the important Champions League match against Manchester City.


Stadium: Santiago Bernabeu
Attendance: 76,000
Goals: 1-0, m.12: Aurtenetxe (o.g.). 2-0, m.30: Ramos. 3-0, m.32: Benzema. 3-1, m.42: Ibai Gomez. 4-1, m.56: Özil. 5-1, m.67: Khedira.
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