Jose Mourinho returned to Madrid today ahead of Chelsea’s Champions League semi-final first leg against Atletico on Tuesday in the midst of an extraordinary sulk and claiming that his side could still keep their composure after Saturday’s meltdown in defeat to Sunderland.
Over the course of an extremely recalcitrant press conference performance at the Vicente Calderon stadium, the former Real Madrid manager said that his players “always behave in relation to the situation”, although he refused to discuss any of the details of a dreadful weekend for his side.
He would not talk about the dismissal of his assistant Rui Faria, the elbow by Ramires on Sebastian Larsson that went unpunished or any expansion on his comments on Saturday about the referee Mike Dean and his boss Mike Riley, the head of the referees’ organisation. Mourinho even refused to acquiesce to requests from local reporters that he respond to questions in Spanish, instead answering in English each time.
Mourinho is without Samuel Eto’o, his first choice striker, who has not travelled to Spain, having suffered what the club said was a “small knee irritation”. Fernando Torres is back at his boyhood club and is a candidate to start the game, although Mourinho could choose to play Andre Schurrle as his striker as he did in the first leg against Paris Saint Germain in the previous round.
A guide to the Champions League semi-finalists
A guide to the Champions League semi-finalists
1/4 REAL MADRID
Best: Winners (1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002)
Star man: Cristiano Ronaldo
Manager: Carlo Ancelotti – has won the league in England, France and Italy, as well as the Champions League twice with Milan, and is now expected to deliver ‘la decima’ – Real Madrid’s tenth European title
Top scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo (14)
Top assist: Karim Benzema/Angel Di Maria (both 5)
Overview: After sailing through the group stages unbeaten, and then dispatching Schalke 9-2 in the last 16, Real Madrid were the form team in the tournament until their scare against Dortmund. The 2-0 defeat in Germany, albeit without their talisman Ronaldo, has revealed a chink in the armour, but you still wouldn’t want to draw them.
Best: Winners (2012)
Star man: Eden Hazard
Manager: Jose Mourinho – The ‘Special One’ is looking to become the first manager to win the competition with three different teams having succeeded at Porto and Inter
Top scorer: Samuel Eto’o/Demba Ba/Fernando Torres (all 3)
Top assist: Oscar (4)
Overview: Despite losing twice to unfancied Basel, Chelsea topped their group and saw off the tricky task of Galatasaray in the last 16. Needed a last minute goal to scrape past PSG in the quarter-final, and will go into the semi-finals as underdogs – as they did in 2012.
3/4 BAYERN MUNICH
Best: Winners (1974, 1975, 1976, 2001, 2013)
Star man: Franck Ribery
Manager: Pep Guardiola – in his first season at Barcelona he won a treble that included the Champions League, and he’s on course to do the same in his first season at Bayern. If he does it his place among the greats will no longer be in doubt.
Top scorer: Thomas Muller (5)
Top assist: Arjen Robben/Phillip Lahm (both 3)
Overview: Aside from a defeat at home to Manchester City, by which stage qualification was already secured, Bayern have been almost perfect, blowing away Arsenal and Manchester United in the knock-out stages. Favourites to become the first team in the Champions League era to retain the title.
4/4 ATLETICO MADRID
Best: Runners-up (1974)
Star man: Diego Costa
Manager: Diego Simeone – the only manager left who was at his club last season, Simeone has built a team performing beyond the resources of Atletico, with a real shot at a first Spanish title since 1996.
Top scorer: Diego Costa (7)
Top assist: Gabi (4)
Overview: Atletico are the only unbeaten team left in the competition, and having seen off Milan and Barcelona they deserve their place in the semi-finals. They may be the only team left never to have won a European title, but they can no longer be considered underdogs, and everyone will want to avoid them.
Ashley Cole is hopeful of a return to the team at left-back with Cesar Azpilicueta moving to the right side. Branislav Ivanovic is suspended for the game.
The Chelsea manager would not discuss the Uefa ruling that permits the on-loan Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to play against his parent club over the two legs. Doing little to conceal his feelings about the decision he said: “I think that [with] Uefa decisions it’s better not to comment, you just accept. If you don’t accept, don’t make any comments. Uefa decide and I think managers don’t comment.”
The Atletico manager Diego Simeone said that there was no issue for Courtois facing the club that signed him from Genk three years ago. Simeone said: “He [Courtois] is full of enthusiasm and knows this is a very important moment for the career of any footballer, but also for our club. There is a third-party situation and he will try to give the best for everyone, the fans, the directors and his teammates.”
Asked whether he felt that the 21-year-old, in his second season on loan at Atletico, had been the subject of psychological pressure from Chelsea, Simeone was adamant that if that was the case it had no effect. “It’s not an issue that worries us. We have no worry about this situation. No comment.”
Raul Garcia, the Atletico, midfielder was the most outspoken about the prospect of facing the Chelsea manager. He said: “Mourinho doesn’t scare us obviously. It’s only a game of football. We know we have an opponent in front of us and they will do all they can to go through. But if we are anything ourselves, we are a very competitive team with huge ambition that want to win. We have no fear but we do respect them.”