Jose Mourinho will be among good friends tomorrow night; although not necessarily in his own dressing room.
As he prepared for an emotional reunion with Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder – both players who, in the past, have been moved to tears by their bond with him – an altogether less 'special' relationship with his current captain Iker Casillas reared its head again.
Casillas is fit after two months out with a broken bone in his hand but Mourinho has named every goalkeeper but the World Cup winner in his squad and it will be either Jesus Fernandez or Antonio Adan on the bench tonight with Diego Lopez starting against Galatasaray in the Champions League quarter-final first leg.
Before the brickbats last night came the bouquets. Asked if he felt Drogba was the best player he had coached he said: "It's difficult to say the best because I have trained many top players but he was a great player and a great friend. I'm sure he would say the same about me; we formed links that went beyond just football."
Mourinho has been praising his former centre-forward as well as former Inter Milan midfielder Sneijder all week and he said: "It is not my style to praise people for no reason. There is real sentiment behind what I have said.
"They were my players and I love and respect them but tomorrow we will have very different objectives. They want to have a good game, I want to make sure that my players stop that from happening."
Then the subject turned to Casillas and the mood changed. Asked about the fit again Real Madrid captain he said: "He is training well but he needs to keep working and wait for his opportunity."
His current ranking behind two inexperienced reserve team players has infuriated supporters of the only player at Real Madrid to have won the Champions League with the club. Asked: "Have you always been fair with Casillas?" Mourinho replied: "Yes, I have."
Asked if the decision to completely leave him out of the squad would have any effect on the dressing room he answered simply: "No." And of his current goalkeeper Diego Lopez he said: "He is playing so well that he is only being criticised by people who are not impartial."
Mourinho dropped Casillas at the end of last year and when the keeper broke his hand two months ago he pushed for the signing of Sevilla's Lopez, who has done well since replacing the Spain captain. Mourinho is expected to leave at the end of the season and when asked about his future last night he said only: "Individuals are not important." A protest march had been planned by some supporters wanting him to stay but has since been denied permission to go ahead. Mourinho said: "I am grateful (for the support) but I don't like the idea. The support I want is for the team on the pitch."
Galatasaray midfielder Sneijder, like Drogba, faces the coach he considers to have given him the best years of his career. Mourinho picked the Dutchman up from Real Madrid in 2009 as they cleared the decks for the arrival of Kaka. He had the last laugh, winning the Champions League that season in Real Madrid's stadium.
"He is a very special person for me and as a coach he is the number one," said Sneijder. "He gave me back my confidence and I enjoyed playing for him like never before or since. He was more than just a coach; he became an important friend."
Sneijder is well aware of Galatasaray's underdog status but he said: "Fifteen bad minutes in this competition and you can go out. We just need to get back to Istanbul still in the tie."
Galatasaray's players are on €25,000 (£21,000) bonuses to knock Madrid out and they have striker Burak Yilmaz level with Cristiano Ronaldo as competition's top scorer with eight goals, one ahead of Lionel Messi on seven.
At the back they look less assured. They will have former Arsenal defender Emmanuel Eboué and one-time Liverpool winger Albert Riera at full-back charged with stopping Angel Di Maria and Ronaldo. "Sometimes we lack concentration and that costs us in this type of game," said Hamit Altintop, another of Mourinho's former players who he signed last season but sold in the summer after just 12 starts.
Real Madrid (4-2-3-1): Diego Lopez, Arbeloa, Varane, Ramos, Coentrao, Khedira, Alonso, Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo, Higuain.
Galatasaray (4-4-2): Muslera, Eboue, Semih Kaya, Dany, Riera, Altintop, Melo, Selcuk Inan, Burak Yilmaz, Drogba.
Dortmund head to Malaga with history on side
Borussia Dortmund's only win in Spain came in the same season that they won the Champions League, a sidenote that could spur the German champions on against Malaga in tomorrow evening's first leg of the quarter-finals.
Dortmund won the European Cup in 1997, beating Atletico Madrid along the way.
This time, Dortmund, fresh from a 2-1 win over a physical Stuttgart side, will be up against a Champions League newcomer. Coach Jürgen Klopp said the match against Stuttgart had been too rough, but had been good preparation for Malaga.
"[Malaga] fly into challenges with just as much intensity," he said.
- More about:
- Chelsea F.c.
- Galatasaray SK
- Iker Casillas
- Jose Mourinho
- Real Madrid
- UEFA Champions League
- Wesley Sneijder