x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Jose Mourinho vows Real Madrid will give respect to Apoel Nicosia

Primera Liga pace setters lead their Cypriot opponents 3-0 ahead of tonight's Champions League quarter-final second leg, while Chelsea hold a 1-0 lead over Benfica.

Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid lead Apoel Nicosia 3-0 going into tonight's second leg.
Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid lead Apoel Nicosia 3-0 going into tonight's second leg.

Jose Mourinho has promised his Real Madrid players will not underestimate Apoel Nicosia tonight in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final despite seemingly already having one foot in the last four.

The Primera Division leaders triumphed 3-0 in Cyprus last Tuesday to all but secure their progress, the substitute Kaka scoring after setting up the first of Karim Benzema's brace.

But Mourinho insisted he would not be taking anything for granted against the Cypriot underdogs - whose giant-killing run has accounted for Lyon, Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk - and claimed he planned to stick closely to the winning formula which saw Real triumph 5-1 at Osasuna on Saturday.

"There won't be many changes in the line-up," he said.

"The only one who played in Pamplona and isn't on the list is [Alvaro] Arbeloa. The rest have been called up to play. Pepe is here with me [at the press conference]because he will play.

"It is a Champions League match and we have a very good aggregate.

"Very few believe that Apoel will score four goals at the Bernabeu, but football is football and we must respect the crowd expecting a good football match, and we must especially respect our opponent."

Draws against Malaga and Villarreal last month allowed Barcelona to cut Real's lead from 10 points to six in the Primera Liga, but the Portuguese does not feel his side will be adversely affected by their busy schedule.

"My players are fine," he said. "They don't feel tired. They are confident and all want to play.

"I only want my team to win and to play well. We've been obtaining good results - regardless of who plays - from the very beginning of the season, which is very important to me.

Ivan Jovanovic, the Apoel coach, acknowledged scoring four goals at the Bernabeu would be virtually impossible for his side, but if his team do get knocked out they will do so with their heads held high.

"Madrid are in the semi-finals - there's no question about that," the Serbian told the Cyprus Mail.

"The second leg will be harder [than the game in Nicosia]. We need to try to exit the competition in the best possible fashion.

"Our campaign will forever be written in gold in the history of not just our club but Cypriot football also."

The other game tonight sees Chelsea take on Benfica, with the English Premier League side holding a 1-0 advantage following their victory in Portugal last week.

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