José Mourinho has warned Manchester City that Real Madrid will be "at our best" when they face them at the Bernabéu in their opening Champions League group game on Tuesday evening. The Spanish champions are reeling from a poor start to the season that continued with Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Sevilla, which left them eight points behind the leaders, Barcelona.
"To play against City motivates me as much as playing against Getafe," said Mourinho. "To win the Champions League motivates me like any other match. Motivation is something intrinsic to the job. The conviction is that tomorrow [on Tuesday evening] we will have a team. A determined, compact and solid team. I will try to field the team that I think will show up. Maybe we won't be as relaxed, or filled with the same conviction and confidence we usually have against an opponent like City, coming off a game which was terrible.
"I'm sure we'll be at our best. I could be wrong but that's what I think. The lineup will not be very different [from Sevilla], nor will I try to show any player that they are not in the best condition. It will be the best that I consider to play against an opposition full of players of the highest level. I don't believe I have created doubts. The principal person responsible is me. When my teams win, we win together, and when we lose, I am the one responsible. Before losing to Sevilla I said to the players what I then said in the press conference. For this reason it is not a criticism but a conviction.
"I said it to them before the game. Football is about today and tomorrow, not yesterday. Yesterday is history. I haven't been able to keep my players motivated and concentrated at the top level and that is my fault."
Mourinho shrugged off the idea that Real's poor start in La Liga adds extra pressure to achieve success in a competition they have not won for a decade. "At this level players and managers have already won things," he said. "All of us have titles, professional and economic stability, we needn't be worried about people nor waiting on their reaction."
While Sergio Agüero now has "a chance" of starting following his knee injury, Roberto Mancini said, David Silva, who signed a new five-year contract on Monday worth a basic £120,000 a week, is wary of Madrid's indifferent form. "It is clear that, when everything is going well, they play with more confidence," he said. "When they have doubts, it is difficult. Maybe it is more dangerous because they are not at a good moment and we could waken the beast in them. But we hope it will be a good match."
Last season City failed to emerge from the group stage despite taking 10 points in a group containing Napoli, Villarreal and Bayern Munich.
This campaign appears harder, with Madrid joined by Borussia Dortmund and Ajax in a group formed of domestic champions. While Mourinho is unsure if City can win the Champions League this term, the former Chelsea manager, who collected the trophy with Porto and Internazionale, believes they will claim the competition soon.
The Portuguese said City under Sheikh Mansour is similar to Chelsea under Roman Abramovich. "I don't think it is very different to Chelsea," he said. "Since Roman bought the club [in 2003, Claudio] Ranieri was the first coach, then I came and we won the first league, some cups and some more titles. Carlo [Ancelotti] then came and they continued to win and finally they won the Champions League.
"With City it started off with Mark Hughes, they started spending money and buying good players. Then Roberto [Mancini] came and he has done a very good job. He has created a great squad, the first cup [the FA Cup in 2010] then the first title arrived. I don't know if it is this season or next season with Roberto, or with another person in the future, but normally in the direction the club is going, sooner or later they will win the big cup."
Mancini's managerial record in the Champions League is poor, with the four years he spent in charge of Internazionale before leaving the club in 2008 yielding only two quarter-finals.
But he defended this by claiming he has not had the players before. "If you drive a Ferrari you can win," he said. "We used to drive a Fiat Cinquecento, and it is not so easy, but now we drive a Ferrari."
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image: © Andrew Brannan