Mourinho 'delighted' by return trip to Barcelona

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The Independent Online

Jose Mourinho yesterday declared his delight at Chelsea having drawn Barcelona in the next stage of the Champions' League.

Jose Mourinho yesterday declared his delight at Chelsea having drawn Barcelona in the next stage of the Champions' League.

"I'm happy, very happy," Mourinho said. "I love Barcelona and I know that the people love me. In the club I have in every corner a friend so it will be very, very, very emotional for me to go there."

It will be the first time since he left the Spanish giants in 2000 to forge his own career as a manager that he has returned. "I left at that time as Louis van Gaal's assistant and so I go back as European champion and Chelsea manager. It is fantastic for me," Mourinho said.

The emotional and professional pulls are strong although Mourinho explained his logic in wanting - and having got - the chance to face the competition's favourites. "The reason I wanted to play them is because they are a top team," he said. "They want to play football and sometimes you have, even at this level, teams who want to win but who don't play to win or use a certain type of tactics and attitude. Barcelona is a pure place to play football. They want to play and have great players."

Mourinho was working with Van Gaal the last time the two sides met in 2000, when Barcelona overturned a 3-1 first-leg defeat to win, after extra-time, at the Nou Camp. Mourinho admitted Barcelona had been lucky then.

His son, also called Jose, was born in the city. "He has a Spanish passport - Portuguese and Spanish," Mourinho said. "He's a Catalan. A little Catalan. So there are big emotions. But when the game starts, goodbye." Who will his son support? "120 per cent... Chelsea," Mourinho said, laughing. "It's for his father but there will be no pressure from me. Just family love."

Despite the tributes he paid to Barcelona, their "fantastic players", the work done by the club's president, Joan Laporta, and coach, Frank Rijkaard, there was also a typically opinionated Mourinho comment about the state of La Liga.

"Barcelona, in their league, are in even a better position than we are because they have no opponent," he said. "We are in a fight with Arsenal and Man U and, why not, Everton because they are there. And Barcelona is alone. Madrid is too far [behind], Valencia is too far and Coruña is very poor this season."

He said that while Chelsea must fight all the way in the Premiership, Barça could already afford to rest players for the Champions' League - as he had done last season at Porto. But he added: "I think Chelsea is strong now, especially mentally strong. We believe we can play against anybody. I hope in February we can be at the same level of play."

There was, he said, nothing to fear - a word, he added, he did not believe in. But, crucially, which side did he see as favourite for the tie? "Nobody," Mourinho said. "50-50." There was a pause before he added: "51-49". To whom? Under his breathe Mourinho murmured: "For us - ha!"

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