Mourinho right to be wary of halftime in Istanbul

Posted by Rob Train

What conspiratorial voices have set up camp in Jose Mourinho's head since he arrived in Madrid is something of an obsession in the Spanish media after the Real boss asked "Por que?" of the footballing gods after his side's last home defeat in normal time in a Champions League match at the Bernabeu, at the hands of what he intimated was UEFA's darling, Barcelona.

After Real's comprehensive defeat of Galatasaray, which has practically ensured a third semifinal appearance in as many seasons, if the conference room was expecting the sound of a fat lady barging to the front of the Special One's subconscious and clearing her throat in Mourinho's post-match dissection, they were to be disappointed. He could have been forgiven for announcing the curtain had dropped on the tie as a contest: Even Fatih Terim was calling on the deities to lend his side a hand next week in Galatasaray's earthly rendition of Hell.

"Knowing the mentality of Turkish teams in Turkey... they know it is going to be difficult but they will give it everything to achieve an historic result in Istanbul. Fatih said that they need a miracle but the history of football is full of miracles. Why shouldn't they dream of a miracle? What if they win 4-0? I have enough experience to know that this is far from over. I will do everything in my power to convince my players that they must take the return seriously. But of course, if we score they'll have to score five," Mourinho said.

The only Champions League turnaround of that magnitude that springs to mind is Deportivo mugging a complacent Milan 4-0 at the Riazor in 2003-04, winning 5-4 on aggregate courtesy of an invaluable away goal. One was sufficient to settle the ensuing semifinal, which sent Mourinho and Porto through to the final and established the Portuguese coach as Europe's hottest property.

Terim's league leaders failed to give themselves even that glimmer of hope in Madrid, largely due to another commanding performance by teenager Raphael Varane, who kept Didier Drogba away from Diego Lopez for most of the game. Mesut Ozil also stood out as Galatasaray elected not to put a man on the German schemer in the Bernabeu.

Suspensions will also play a part in the return leg and Mourinho's tacit permission for Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos to give themselves the night off by incurring cautions -- a tactic that under UEFA rules can incur a two-match ban and that Mourinho, Alonso and Ramos fell foul of in a 2010 group game against Ajax, picking up a one match sanction for the dead rubber against Auxerre -- may return to haunt him if the continental governing body investigates.

- Mourinho denies pre-planning bookings

"The cautions for Xabi, Ramos, Yilmaz and Dany mean important absences for the next match on both sides," Mourinho noted when asked about the incidents that obliged the referee to reach for his top pocket. "This lets me play Ramos and Xabi this weekend against Levante, because they wouldn't have done otherwise, but it complicates my plans a little. When I saw Xabi get a yellow I started thinking about Istanbul."

The absence of two key players may yet cause Real a headache on the night. The city on the Bosphorus has witnessed miracles before. At halftime in the 2005 final Liverpool's players were treated to the sound of revelry in the Milan dressing room at Istanbul's Ataturk Stadium, Carlo Ancelotti's team having chalked up a seemingly unassailable 3-0 lead. Alonso was key to the famous second half comeback, orchestrating play and burying the rebound from his own saved penalty to level matters.

Mourinho is wise to present a cautious front, a stance the pro-Madrid sports press elected not to bother with on a windswept morning in the Spanish capital, preferring to rub its collective hands together at the prospect of revenge on Bayern or another soul-sucking showdown with the eternal rival.

Real has never had a 3-0 advantage overturned in Europe. Seven times the same result in the first leg has been enough to see the side safely through to the next round. Furthermore, Real has found the back of the net in all of its European matches this season, and on Wednesday kept its first clean sheet in the competition. Buruk Yilaz has scored eight of the Turkish side's measly 11 in the competition.

The smart money is on Real to progress with ease. Frankly, Galatasaray hasn't got a hope in Hades, even if it owns the real estate. But then again, miracles aren't called miracles because they are expected to happen. It's halftime in Istanbul again, and it is right that Real is not yet celebrating. If, when, the first goal hits the back of Galatasaray's net, Mourinho can definitively turn his mind to the semifinals.

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