Last four deserve respect says Mourinho

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The Independent Online

Jose Mourinho believes all four of the Champions League semi-finalists would be worthy of a place in next month's final in Madrid.

Inter and Barcelona meet at the San Siro tonight in the first semi, with Lyon and Bayern Munich to do battle in the other last-four encounter 24 hours later.

Tonight's game is viewed by some as the final that never was, with Lyon and Bayern perhaps perceived as less glamourous clubs, but Inter coach Mourinho is not attributing any special significance to the encounter with the reigning European champions.

"This is a semi-final and whoever wins goes into the real final, the only one that exists," said Mourinho.

"I don't like the third/fourth-place play-off at a World Cup because it is a nothing game.

"The final is in Madrid and the final is not going to be Inter-Barcelona, it is going to be Inter or Barcelona."

The match between Lyon and Bayern may lack some of the sparkle of the Inter-Barca tie, but Mourinho insists both clubs should not be underestimated.

"They deserve lots of respect because they have arrived in the semi-finals in the same way as we have," he said.

"They are quality teams and have a 50% chance of winning the Champions League.

"They are clubs with a history. Lyon maybe are in the semi-finals for the first time, but they have been in the quarter-finals for three or four years in a row.

"They eliminated Real Madrid and eliminated a French team [Bordeaux] and it's never easy to play a team from the same country.

"Bayern have one of the best coaches in the world [Louis van Gaal], lots of great players, a great history in the Champions League and deserve for us not to be saying that tomorrow is an early final.

"There is no such thing as an early final in the Champions League."

Nevertheless, with the likes of Lionel Messi and Wesley Sneijder on show at the San Siro tonight, the game is bound to attract a huge worldwide audience, and Mourinho hopes the game lives up to its billing.

"I understand that because of the power of the teams and the quality of the players, this is a game which attracts a lot of attention," he said.

"I hope that everybody can answer in a positive way to the expectations around the world.

"Especially now with only one match on Tuesday and one on Wednesday, we can imagine that everybody will be around the TV watching this game and it is our responsibility to give everybody what they are expecting.

"This is a huge responsibility for us."

And for Barca coach Pep Guardiola, even a 14-hour coach journey to reach the San Siro due to the flight restrictions in force across much of Europe has not dampened his spirits.

"Let me just enjoy this feeling once again of being in the semi-final for the third time in a row," he said with a grin.

"This is a great success for us and we should enjoy it. We want to enjoy the semi-final and hope to arrive in the final."

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