Jose Mourinho unfazed by upcoming 'El Clasico'

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The Independent Online

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho admits he expects to be a "persona non grata" at the Nou Camp next week as his in-form side take on Barcelona in 'El Clasico'.

Mourinho, whose team go into the clash with a one-point lead over second-placed Barca at the top of La Liga, was once on the coaching staff at the Catalan giants but he believes events last season will assure him of a heated reception from the home fans on Monday.

With the 2010 Champions League final being held at the Bernabeu, Barca would have relished the chance to be able to defend the title they won 12 months previously at the hallowed home of their arch rivals Madrid.

However, having got to the semi-finals and seen Madrid yet again knocked out at the last-16 stage, Barca's dreams were ended by eventual winners Inter Milan - with Mourinho the man on the bench of the Italian side.

In the first leg at the San Siro, Inter stunned Barca with a 3-1 win and that was enough to put them through do the final despite losing the second leg 1-0 at the Nou Camp following a backs-to-the-wall performance with 10 men.

During that match in Spain Mourinho was almost constantly jeered by the home crowd, some of whom disparagingly refer to the Portuguese as 'the translator' having held that role alongside Bobby Robson at the Nou Camp in the 1990s, before working as a coach under Louis van Gaal for three seasons.

Mourinho, who also crossed swords with Barca while in charge at Chelsea, admitted at the time that he could never coach the Catalans due to the hatred of the fans towards him, and he is under no illusions about what could await him on Monday night.

"The fans in the Nou Camp will never forgive me for denying them the opportunity to win the Champions League at the Santiago Bernabeu," Mourinho told www.fifa.com.

"I'm a persona non grata as far as Barcelona supporters are concerned, so I'll get a hostile reception.

"That's just football. I beat them with Chelsea, then with Inter and now I'm coaching their fiercest rivals, Real Madrid. That's too many things in quick succession. The past (Mourinho's history at Barca) doesn't matter, it's what's happened recently that counts. That's the way football works."

Mourinho is not getting carried away with the importance of the match itself, though.

Last season the clashes between the two Spanish superpowers were crucial, with Barca beating Madrid twice en route to finishing three points clear of their rivals at the top of the table, and all signs point to it being another two-horse race this season.

With only 12 rounds gone, there is already a seven-point gap between Barca in second and Villarreal in third, while fourth-placed Espanyol are a further two points back.

Mourinho, who has yet to suffer defeat in any competition as Madrid coach, said: "But I'm going there (Nou Camp) to play a football match and that's that. It's like I always say: if we win on Monday then it'll be Tuesday the next day. And if we lose on Monday then it'll still be Tuesday the next day.

"That's why we have to keep working hard and enjoying ourselves just the same, whatever happens."

Meanwhile, Mourinho heaped praise on opposite number Pep Guardiola, who he believes Barca should be looking to tie down as coach for the next half-century.

"If I were Barca president Sandro Rosell I'd give him a contract for the next 50 years," said Mourinho.

"Because he's a club man who's been steeped in the Barcelona way since birth. He knows the place inside out and he knows the kind of football that Barcelona fans want. He's the ideal man to coach Barcelona for as long as he wants to."

Mourinho, who admitted he would also want Guardiola as Madrid coach if he were in charge of the nine-time European champions, also believes there is a mutual respect between the two managers.

"We used to work together at Barca and I have only positive memories of that period. Now we're rival coaches but I get the feeling that we respect each other. In my view that's a good thing, and it'd be perfect if it stayed that way," he added.

"I first said he'd end up being an excellent head coach years ago."

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