Jose Mourinho goes on defensive over Samuel Eto'o age comments after French broadcaster secretly records conversation
Chelsea manager still upset at what he considers a betrayal by Canal Plus
Jose Mourinho began with a lecture on the ethics of the media, an admonishment to the French broadcasters Canal Plus for recording a private conversation of his in which he voiced an opinion everyone else has held for a while: that Chelsea really could do with a top-notch striker.
It was all a bit of an embarrassment, especially Mourinho's joke about doubts over the age of Samuel Eto'o, and the Chelsea manager was still chewing on what he considered a betrayal, 24 hours after the video was first uploaded onto the Canal Plus website. "It's a real disgrace," he said at his press conference at the team's base in Istanbul, of an informal chat recorded after he gave an interview to the French as part of a personal deal with the watch manufacturers Hublot.
It is unlikely that Canal Plus will find themselves welcomed into the Mourinho inner sanctum any time soon, whether he has an endorsement to promote or not. Even by the standards of a deeply competitive industry, it was a cheap trick, reflected in the fact that Canal Plus later took the video down. It had the unusual effect of placing Mourinho on the defensive, a position in which he has found himself a lot less than his team since his return to Chelsea in the summer.
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The joke about the age of Eto'o was, he said, "from my perspective, obviously not a good one and obviously not something I would do in a serious way." He added: "First of all, because I don't make fun. Secondly, because if there are managers in the world who really defend their players, I'm obviously one of them."
He will need Eto'o again against Galatasaray and there is understood to be no problem between player and manager over the issue. Fernando Torres has not started a game for Mourinho since he returned from injury. This is a tie that Mourinho and Chelsea are expected to win, even if they are up against a side with an excellent home record and the familiar schtick of the underdogs, that Mourinho has pursued for so long, will not wash again if they fall to one of the competition's less-fancied sides. With Didier Drogba preparing for a hero's return to Stamford Bridge in three weeks' time and an old adversary in Roberto Mancini, this journey to Istanbul is not without potential pitfalls, some as deep as some of those potholes on the road up to Chelsea's temporary training base outside the city.
The pitch at the Türk Telekom Arena is bad and neither team trained there today, Mourinho preferring to use the training ground of Super League club Kasimpasa. He came to Istanbul last season with Real Madrid in the quarter-finals, having first beaten Fatih Terim's team 3-0 at the Bernabeu and lost the second leg 3-2. On that occasion, Alvaro Arbeloa was red-carded and Galatasaray pursued the game to the very end, when Cristiano Ronaldo scored a second in the final minute.
Galatasaray beat Juventus here in December after the infamous snowstorm caused the game to be abandoned and then resumed a day later to earn their place in the last 16, a result in which Mourinho took special interest. "Juve was a special situation because of the snow," Mourinho said. "But even in the first match, when there was no snow and they had to stop the game, the pitch was not in the best condition. I think it favours them because they are a very competitive side, very physical, very aggressive.
"They play with their strength and their experience, with their know-how. For my people, like Oscar and [Eden] Hazard, it is an experience to catch with both hands and learn." Judging by training, David Luiz will be fit to start if that is what Mourinho chooses to do. Mancini said that the aim was that his team gave themselves "a chance in London". His side are unbeaten in 11 games since the defeat to Real Madrid in late November and the home tie against the Spanish side in September is the solitary defeat at home all season.
"When you speak about Drogba and [Wesley] Sneijder, you are speaking about two of the best in the world, two Champions League winners," Mourinho said. "They are a very difficult side for us with some characteristics that make it even more difficult for us. The stadium is difficult, the crowd is difficult, even at Stamford Bridge they will bring lots of fans and put pressure on the opponents and on referees and decisions. We have a very difficult tie."
That was not the way that Mancini or Sneijder saw it. The Galatasaray manager declared Chelsea "80 per cent favourites", adding, for the benefit of his interpreter, "that's 80 per cent, not 18 per cent". Sneijder, who won the competition with Mourinho at Internazionale in 2010, was more upbeat but in no doubt as to who the favourites were. "It'll be a hard game, a tough game, but we've prepared well," he said. "We'll see what happens, but we feel really confident."
Mourinho's record in the competition is superb and if he makes the last four this season, it will be the eighth time he has done so in the last 10 years. In contrast, Mancini has made the quarter-finals just once in six seasons in the competition with Inter and Manchester City. In Turkey, he has to deal with the limitation on foreign players in domestic games, with only six permitted to play at any one time, but against Chelsea that will be different.
There has been a lot of talk about old friendships but at the heart of this game is the animosity between Mancini and Mourinho. The two men do not like each other. So far, Mourinho's trip has been overtaken by events beyond his control but it could get worse.
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