Semi-final, first leg; kick-off: 19:45 (BST)
A week after leading Real Madrid to Copa del Rey success against Barcelona, Jose Mourinho is expecting a “different game” when the arch-rivals meet in the first leg of their eagerly-awaited Champions League semi-final.
Though his team won that most recent meeting 1-0 thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s header, the Madrid coach says”there are no favourites” for the tie.
“I don’t know how Barcelona are feeling at the moment, I only know how we are,” said Mourinho. “We would have been in the same state of mind even if we had lost the Copa del Rey, although it was obviously fantastic to win it. The day after that we were all relaxed and focused again, ready for our next Liga match.
“Before coming here today I told someone I am the same coach that lost 5-0 to Barcelona a few months ago. I haven’t changed. I don’t possess a magic potion to beat them; I only know that it takes hard work. Since that defeat we played a great game against them in the Liga and drew 1-1. We then won 1-0 in the Copa del Rey final [after extra time] but this is a different game and anything can happen.
Mourinho dismissed Barca counterpart, Pep Guardiola’s, claim that last week’s Copa del Roy success meant that Madrid were favourites to reach next month’s Champions League final.
“My opinion is that there are no favourites in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League,” he said. “We are two rivals who know each other well; two rivals with a lot of history between us. We both have players who know how to play in important games and who have had success.
“I am a normal motivator. Like anyone, I have to motivate myself first.
I told my players before the final of the Copa del Rey that there was someone called Albert, Albert Einstein, who said that there is a force more powerful than steam, electricity and atomic energy: will. And this guy Albert was not stupid.
“If we play well, create great chances, are the better team and finish with a draw then obviously I will be happy. If they do all of those things and we draw then I’ll be happy, too.”
Sami Khedira misses out with a right adductor tear with Lassana Diarra, who returned from a hip complaint at the weekend, expected to provide cover in defensive midfield. Emmanuel Adebayor and Angel Di Maria have shaken off minor knocks and are available.
Guardiola, who will be without the influential midfielder Anres Iniesta, said his players have recovered from last wee’s defeat to Real and are focused solely on tonight’s game.
“Tomorrow at 20.45 we will go out there looking to win,” he said. “I congratulate Real Madrid for their victory in the Copa del Rey, which they won deservedly.
“Andres Iniesta is out of the game but we hope he will be back for the return. My players know there are no excuses here. If we win it’s because we are better; we will defend that idea until the end.
“We are facing a team who are in their form of the season. We are in a UEFA Champions League semi-final and for us it’s a big task facing Real Madrid, one of the best teams in Europe. It’s a great challenge as we are just one step away from Wembley. We will look to do the best we can. We have come here to try to beat a team that has won nine European Cups.
“I’m hugely satisfied to be at this stage of the competition, it’s a success. If you come here to defend they will roll over you because the pitch is very wide and they have very good players. We will compete as we know how and with what we have.
As well as Iniesta, Guardiola will also be without Maxwell, although Carles Puyol trained on the eve of the game after overcoming knee and hamstring problems and will skipper the side. Adriano is out for a month having torn a muscle in his right thigh in the Copa del Rey final.