Mourinho looking to maintain momentum
Real Madrid train ahead of Galatasaray clash
Jose Mourinho says Real Madrid are coming to the boil nicely ahead of Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Galatasaray at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
Madrid reached the semi-finals of last year's competition, falling on penalties to Bayern Munich, and Mourinho feels his team are capable of going one better this term, although he stressed that they need to take things step by step.
"Last year we played a great competition, and lost the semi-finals on penalties, so there was not much to improve," Mourinho said. "I do not see the team as better or worse than last year, but we have played the most difficult group stages and then knocked out one of the biggest candidates to win the competition [Manchester United] in the last 16. We are arriving at this point with all our players available. Now we will see if we can keep that going."
With Xabi Alonso, Raphael Varane and Fabio Coentrao all passed fit for Wednesday's game, Mourinho's biggest selection decision is up front. One of Gonzalo Higuain or Karim Benzema will start, but neither man is in the best of form at present.
"The most important thing is that we score enough goals to go through," Mourinho said. "It does not matter who scores them. Everybody knows the quality of our two 'nines'. Because of their quality, people have high expectations of them. Against United, Higuain did not score but he played a great game. I never pressure my forwards to score - I just want them to work well for the team."
Mourinho said he did not see his side as big favourites to progress through the tie, saying that his experience in the competition had taught him that all teams in the last eight could win it.
"I have reached this stage of the competition with Chelsea among the favourites and we did not win," he said. "When I got to this stage with Porto and with Inter, neither team was favourites and they won. Any team that has come through to the last eight will be high on confidence and motivation, so I do not like to talk about favourites."
Mourinho said he expected a stiff challenge from the Turkish champions, given the experience of their coach, Fatih Terim, and the quality throughout their team.
"[Terim] will organise his team to work, to defend, but without fear of playing here," he said. "They will not be uncomfortable in a quarter-final - they have players who have been at teams like Arsenal, Juventus, Inter, Chelsea, Madrid - so it will be difficult. Up front they have three players - [Didier] Drogba, [Wesley] Sneijder and Burak [Yilmaz] - who could play for any team."
Amid some often tetchy exchanges with Spanish journalists, Mourinho said his own future was not important at the moment, and that club captain Iker Casillas was training well but not yet ready to return to action. He then reacted to a follow-up question by taking a piece of paper and reading back an old article, once written by the questioner, about the wrongs of having favoured players.
There was also a hint of self-defence when asked whether Madrid needed to win their long-awaited tenth European Cup for the current season to be seen as a success.
"Getting through to the semis is what we want now," Mourinho said. "We know the club we are representing, its history in this competition. Nine European Cups is a lot. We also know it was knocked out in the last 16 [under previous coaches] for many years, then reached two semi-finals in the last two seasons [when Mourinho was in charge].
"Galatasaray are a big team, with a history of winning, and know what it is to beat Real Madrid, so we must prepare as well as possible to get a result that puts us in a good position to progress."