Jose Mourinho has praised Manuel Pellegrini as a "good coach" ahead of Real Madrid's meeting with Malaga on Thursday but said finishing second with a club-record 96 points last season only made him the "best loser".
Pellegrini endured a difficult 2009-10 campaign, losing out to Barcelona by three points in La Liga despite winning 31 of their 38 games as well as suffering a humiliating Copa del Rey defeat to Alcorcon as well as exiting the Champions League to Lyon in the second round.
He left the club in the summer and has since taken charge of relegation-threatened Malaga, and although Mourinho expects to take three points after the 0-0 draw with Deportivo at the summer, he has offered words of encouragement to the Chilean.
"We'll have to win against Malaga and we will have to take risks," he said. "Malaga are a good team. They have experienced players and a good coach. I'm practically sure they won't be relegated this year.
"Manuel Pellegrini had a good run in La Liga with Real Madrid last year and I expect the crowd to greet him well. The door to our dressing room is open for him."
Mourinho said Madrid's 100% home record "does not guarantee we'll win again" but added: "We have to win tomorrow. We played with many forwards for 30 minutes against Deportivo and 15 minutes with three defenders. We have to win and must take risks."
In spite of his praise, Mourinho suggested Pellegrini had fallen short of expectations during his year at the Bernabeu.
"In my philosophy, finishing second just makes you the best loser," he said. "Pellegrini told the truth to some degree when he said that Madrid did pretty well last year.
"The fact is, though, that making it past the first round of the Copa del Rey and surviving the first knock-out round in the Champions League is enough for me to do better than him. We've already done better in the cup and things are looking good in the Champions League as well, even though we can still be beaten by the team that defeated Madrid last year.
"I have my own opinion on last year's La Liga performance. You're just the best of the rest when you finish second. It's the same when you finish ten points behind the champions but score 500 goals. You're still only number two."
Pellegrini, responding to the remarks in his press conference, said: "I have no comments to make on the opinion of a friend. I am very proud to coach Malaga and the situation I am in. I have no problems coaching this team, and I am very proud of it.
"I am the Malaga coach, and I do not intend to comment on the opinions of colleagues. I have nothing against Mourinho or Real Madrid. When I see everyone I will say hello and I will offer my hand to Mourinho."
He added: "We have everything to win and plenty to lose, but my biggest motivation to win is not Mourinho but Malaga. There are three points up for grabs against a great rival who is having an excellent season."
Meanwhile, Mourinho stressed his support for Kaka, who has been linked with a return to AC Milan after failing to produce his best form in Madrid.
"Kaka hasn't played for six months, but it has actually been longer because he hasn't been in optimum form for a year and half," Mourinho said. "He relies on his talent and speed, which doesn't make this situation easy for him. I didn't expect him to be the Ballon d'Or winner he was as soon as he recovered.
"He is going through a natural process and we must continue to support him. He is a fantastic guy and a great player. We must be patient and allow him to work with no pressure. I don't put any pressure on him."