Jose Mourinho said yesterday that Real Madrid would give Apoel Nicosia the respect they deserve by fielding a strong team in tonight's Champions League quarter-final second leg at the Bernabeu, despite holding a healthy 3-0 advantage from the first match.
The Cypriots have been the surprise packages this season, reaching the last eight in their first appearance in Europe's premier competition, but they failed to register a single shot on goal in the first leg.
"I won't make many changes," Mourinho told a news conference yesterday. "It is a Champions League game. Few believe Apoel will score four goals here tomorrow but in football you must show respect and to the fans as well."
Real are on the brink of a second consecutive appearance in the Champions League semi-finals and they are also closing in on a first La Liga title in four years. The nine-times European champions hold a six-point domestic lead over second-placed Barcelona with eight games to play. They face a difficult match against Valencia, who are third, on Sunday.
"The players aren't tired. They want to play," Mourinho said. "We have a good record in the Champions League over the last two years with many victories, the odd draw, and only one defeat, and we want to continue doing well."
The former Chelsea and Internazionale coach also took a swipe at the Spanish media, saying his side's morale was strong despite what he described as attempts to undermine their campaign with malicious rumours. "Every day you try to destabilise us," said Mourinho.