'My team are not ready to face Inter or Chelsea,' says Jose
Mourinho fears potential reunions in today's Champions League draw – and he has good reason
Thursday 26 August 2010
After the whirlwind comes the deep depression. Jose Mourinho swept imperiously into Real Madrid two months ago but failure to get what he wanted in the transfer market has left him dreading being paired with an English team in today's Champions League draw.
Real Madrid have been unbeaten but unimpressive throughout their pre-season programme with Mourinho's demands for a centre-forward falling on deaf ears and an injury crisis ravaging their defence. Today they could be paired with Manchester United, Chelsea or the holders Internazionale and Mourinho is paying for the failings of previous seasons. Real's repeated recent collapses at the last 16 stage of the tournament means they are not seeded for the first time in Champions League history.
"It's possible that we will have to play against Chelsea or Manchester United in the first match and I have not had three consecutive days on the training ground with all my players," says Mourinho, lamenting the recent round of international friendlies.
He is without three central defenders and fears a similar injury crisis in attack after his request for a new striker was rejected by the club's sporting director, Jorge Valdano, and president, Florentino Perez.
"We need to be lucky and not have anything happen to our two strikers, Karim Benzema or Gonzalo Higuain," he says. "In an emergency I can play Cristiano Ronaldo through the middle but you lose so much from his game when he plays there. He is not a centre-forward."
Real have signed six players but with Spain internationals Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Alvaro Arbeloa and Xabi Alonso, and German World Cup stars and new signings Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira also late back into pre-season training, preparations have not been ideal.
"Manchester United, Chelsea and Inter are already-made teams," says Mourinho of his potential rivals. He is well aware that Chelsea rely on the foundations he laid and that Inter have barely changed the team he built and took to the treble last season. Now those teams could block his path in the Champions League.
"Clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and Inter are well established and just needed to bring in one or two players this summer," he says. "Barça are also the finished product. They play with their eyes closed. They have been together so long that they come back from their holidays and after three days of training they are ready. That is not the case for Madrid.
"A team needs to adapt to a new coach, to six new players and to another way of working. What you will see against Mallorca on Sunday [in their first league game of the season] will not be the finished article."
Mourinho reflects on the final preseason performance of his fledgling side, when the club's six new signings were paraded at the Bernabeu on Tuesday. He has not only inherited a team that is not Champions League seeded, he has also inherits one that has had its budget slashed. Last year £250m was spent on new players, this season just £90m has gone on recruits. Mourinho wanted to move on Kaka this summer to give him some transfer market leg room, but the injury that has ruled him out until November has put paid to that.
Another of last season's big signings has also met with his disapproval. He was heard telling Benzema, "You turn up at 10am half-asleep and you are still asleep at 11am," in a training session recently. Mourinho believes the young Frenchman is far from the finished article.
Neither Benzema nor Kaka fit the Mourinho mould but, with one injured and the other Perez's prized signing from last season, he has been unable to bring in another forward.
He would like to have signed Wolfsburg's Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko but the chances of that are now non-existent according to the club. Madrid's squad is already one man over the permitted 25. Unless left-back Royston Drenthe can be loaned out and midfielder Mahamadou Diarra sold there will be no new faces, and even if there was room, the arrival of another striker who would limit Benzema's opportunities has been frowned upon.
"Put Higuain and Benzema in the same body and you have the complete centre-forward," concludes Mourinho, ramming home the point that he feels he lacks someone that can do for him what Didier Drogba did at Chelsea and Diego Milito at Inter.
Valdano has stated publicly that playing Ronaldo through the middle when needs-must solves the problem. Mourinho wants his compatriot coming from deeper to terrorise defences rather than waiting for the ball to reach him and the disagreement with Valdano will doubtless resurface.
For a while Mourinho has some breathing space. Real Madrid don't play Barcelona until the last weekend in November and if today's draw brings the worst and Madrid are paired with a Premier League team or with the holders Inter, last season will serve as an inspiration.
At Inter, Mourinho played Barcelona twice in the group stage, drawing 0-0 in the second game having been outplayed in a 2-0 defeat at the Nou Camp. That team looked a long way off Pep Guardiola's invincibles.
But when the Champions League semi-finals came around a stronger Inter knocked out Barça and went on to win the tournament. It's a long season and even at the most impatient club in the world Mourinho has enough credit to be given time.
How today's Champions League draw works
Today's Champions League group stage draw takes place in Monaco at 5pm.
Teams will be drawn from four pots of eight, seeded by their performance in Europe over five seasons. No side can be drawn in the same group as a team from their own country. Eight groups of four are drawn.
Pot One Inter Milan, Barcelona, Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Lyon.
Pot Two Werder Bremen, Real Madrid, Roma, Shakhtar Donetsk, Benfica, Valencia, Marseille, Panathinaikos.
Pot Three Tottenham, Rangers, Ajax, Schalke, Basle, Braga, FC Copenhagen, Spartak Moscow.
Pot Four Hapoel Tel Aviv, FC Twente, Rubin Kazan, Auxerre, CFR Cluj, Partizan Belgrade, MSK Zilina, Bursaspor.
Teams will be drawn into eight groups of four, to face each other on a home and away basis, with the top two from each group advancing to the knockout stages. Group games begin on 14-15 September and go on until December, with the final taking place on 28 May 2011 at Wembley.
Scenarios for English clubs
Spurs' best outcome: Lyons, Zenit St Petersburg, Bursaspor.
Spurs' worst outcome: Internazionale, Real Madrid, Spartak Moscow.
Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea all face the possibility of being drawn to face Real Madrid and Rangers.
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