Friday, 18 March 2011

Who's feeling blue?

After Real Madrid's convincing 4-1 aggregate victory over Lyon, Mourinho fired the first shot in preparing his side for the Champions League Quarter Finals:
I prefer to avoid Chelsea and Inter, because emotionally it's difficult playing against your people and your friends.

To most it is a statement of desire. A desire not to play certain teams. Or perhaps one of apprehension at the prospect of having to play against his former clubs. However as so often when managers speak, he is not speaking to inform but speaking to gain an advantage.

Mourinho will be hoping to draw Schalke - now managerless and floundering in 10th position in das Bundesliga. If they do draw Schalke Mourinho will emphasise how important it is to remain concentrated against all opposition in the Champions League. He will probably look to play up the importance of their key players, piling pressure onto them to perform. Incidentally, their strikers - Huntelaar and Raul - are both ex Madrid. It would be highly unusual for him not to pass comment on Raul's beautiful past with the club, looking to create the tie into an emotional encounter to take the edge off his performance. Privately he will be concerned that the team will react like a wounded beast - they have, after all, nothing else to play for.

The other team he will want to draw are Shaktar Donetsk. Along with the usual comments about not underestimating any side at this stage of the competition, Mourinho will focus on the beautiful feeling of playing at this stage of the competition. Shaktar have the weight of a nation on their shoulders and so it would seem opportune to focus on increasing this pressure, whilst emphasising how normal it is for a club of Real Madrid's stature to be playing a Quarter Final.

Whilst publicly he will play up Tottenham's talented squad - he is a known admirer of Bale, having tried to buy him whilst at Inter - privately he will be satisfied to draw the North London club. They are largely inexperienced at this level and have probably reached as far as they can go. Expect Mourinho to be hugely complementary about their performances so far. This should force them to reflect on their incredible achievements so far, lessening their bite in this game. If they go out, they might reason, they will have achieved something glorious already.

Barcelona are not a team they will want to face, and an unholy war of words followed by some resolute defending and lightening counter attacking will ensue in the event of such a draw. Mourinho will emphasise again how his teams peak in their second season and that they have done well to reach this stage - something they hadn't previously achieved in 6 years. Expect this to be accompanied by an extremely gritty performance.

Manchester United are a team severely hampered by injury. In any event Mourinho has only ever spoken of Ferguson in glowing terms.

This leaves Inter and Chelsea. By placing the emphasis on how difficult it is to play your friends he is already evoking emotions in the players who love him. This is a building block upon which to build further monuments to glories past.

Mourinho is a clever man.

1 comment:


    First comments on the fixture are a mixed bag. He has certainly tried to suggest Tottenham should be happy having come this far and beaten illustrious opposition. He has also been complementary about their players and manager: "they have a very good team and a good manager".

    However he has also moved to reinforce the strong public image Real Madrid (still) have. They are unequivocally the better team. They will progress. Mourinho's team have a tough run of games ahead and confidence will be key. This is a start.

    He is also wary that they will have every reason to keep fighting to extend the dream. However he tempers this by downplaying their achievements domestically by caiming the top teams (those ahead of Spurs) have lost something in terms of quality in recent years.

    It is not clear that Mourinho has a clear strategy for PR yet - although having agreed to appear in 5live, he will undoubtedly have had a message he wanted to put across. If there is one at this stage it is: "you are good, but we are better - don't forget it".