x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Jose Mourinho downplays Real Madrid's favourite tag for first leg

Jose Mourinho has downplayed his side's status as favourites for tonight's Champions League semi-final first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Real Madrid players look relaxed at training yesterday.
Real Madrid players look relaxed at training yesterday.

Jose Mourinho has downplayed his side's status as favourites for tonight's Champions League semi-final first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Real Madrid beat a Pep Guardiola-coached Barcelona side for the first time in seven tries last Wednesday to win the Copa del Rey, their first domestic cup in 18 years and first trophy in nearly three.

Riding the momentum of that victory, the nine-time European champions are now banking on Mourinho to repeat last year's achievement at this stage when his Inter Milan knocked the Catalans out to reach the final.

The Portuguese coach also came out victorious in two out of three two-legged matches with Barcelona while at English Premier League club Chelsea.

Real's cup win has shifted the momentum in their favour, especially after they routed third-place Valencia 6-3 on Saturday while Barcelona laboured past Osasuna 2-0.

But Mourinho was downplaying expectations ahead of the match.

"I'm the same coach, the exact same, that lost 5-0 against Barcelona six months ago. I don't have a magic potion," Mourinho said yesterday.

"We're not favourites. It's the Champions League semi-final between two teams that know each other, two teams with tradition, two teams with success who have won big games before - there exists no favourite."

While Barcelona are on course for a third consecutive league title, Real cruise into today's clash with more confidence and a more rested team, since Mourinho left most of his regulars on the bench against Valencia.

Reports in Barcelona yesterday suggested Andres Iniesta may be a doubt after the Spain international hurt his leg against Osasuna, but the midfielder was still in an optimistic mood.

"It will be tough and difficult, but we have a positive attitude and are very excited to know that we are very close to being in another final," he said.

"It would be a dream to play at Wembley Stadium [in the final]. I don't mind if I don't score, or even play, as long as we are in that final."

He added: "We would all have settled for being where we are in the league, being in the Champions League semi-finals and playing the Copa del Rey final."