Internazionale coach Jose Mourinho claims there is no added pressure on him to win the Champions League as the Nerazzurri start their Group B campaign at Panathinaikos.
Mourinho led FC Porto to the European title in 2004 before twice taking Chelsea to the semi-finals. He left Chelsea this time last season and returns to the Champions League hopeful of success but realistic about the strength of the opposition in this season’s competition.
“I’m not under pressure to win this competition,” he said. “[Inter owner] Massimo Moratti knows this is the UEFA Champions League, a competition where minor details can make the difference.
“I don’t believe I was a better coach when I won the trophy than when my [Chelsea] team were eliminated on penalties in the semi-finals, and I won’t accept my merits as a coach being evaluated on the basis of results only.
“However beware: My teams tend to win trophies. I’m not afraid to say we want to win the competition, but I’m a realist. Apart from us, there are the English teams, the Spanish sides, Bayern Munich and the other Italian teams – perhaps apart from Fiorentina who are strong but inexperienced – who are tipped to lift the trophy. It’s not just Manchester United, Chelsea and us.”
Iván Cordoba will be back in defence alongside Marco Materazzi, with Mourinho undecided whether Mario Balotelli, Luís Figo or Mancini will play on the right flank.
Henk Ten Cate joined Chelsea as Avram Grant’s assistant following Mourinho’s departure, before moving on to Panathinaikos after the London side’s loss to Manchester United in last season’s Champions League final.
“It’s a privilege for us to start against a team as good as Inter,” he said. “My players are very motivated and will play with lots of heart. This game will give us the chance to find out quickly where we stand in the group. This is serious business and we have to be at our sharpest.”
Ten Cate will aim to tighten a defence which has looked uncertain in the Greek Super League, and could bring in Marcelo Mattos as extra defensive cover in midfield alongside Gilberto. Giorgos Karagounis was rested at the weekend but will return on Tuesday, with the Dutch coach saying: “He is one of the few players we have with considerable UEFA Champions League experience. Therefore he is extremely important for us.”