With Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Kaká and Marcelo all missing, José Mourinho suffered his first home league defeat in nine years on Saturday when Real Madrid CF lost 1-0 to Real Sporting de Gijón.
The trio are still likely to be out when Madrid host Tottenham Hotspur FC in Tuesday's quarter-final first leg, but Mourinho expects their replacements to rise to the occasion. "Players have always given me everything at every club that I've coached," he told UEFA.com. "
Of course [Ronaldo's] injury is a very significant blow, but what can we do? We have to play with the players we have at hand."
They struggled on Saturday, as Miguel de las Cuevas's 79th-minute strike silenced the Santiago Bernabéu and condemned Madrid to the most unexpected of defeats. It allowed FC Barcelona to move eight points clear at the summit and ended Mourinho's astonishing 150-game run: his previous home league reverse having come when his FC Porto side were beaten 3-2 by SC Beira-Mar on 23 February 2002.
Now they face a Tottenham side that have pulled up trees to make the last eight, getting the better of FC Internazionale Milano in the group stage and AC Milan in the round of 16 – Mourinho does not doubt their pedigree. "They are a great team, with a great coach, and great players," the Portuguese trainer said. "They've got here after beating the current European champions and also Milan, who are the second best in history in terms of European titles."
The former Porto, Chelsea FC and Inter boss is bidding for his own place in the record books: become the first man to lead three teams to UEFA Champions League glory. Having guided Inter to success last season after his 2004 triumph with Porto, the 48-year-old is now five games away from a unique hat-trick.
If they negotiate Spurs they will face either Barcelona or FC Shakhtar Donetsk in the semi-finals. "I am happy because I didn't want to play Inter or Chelsea," he said. "Happy for that, and also for the fact we cannot meet one of my old clubs in the semi-final either.
"It makes me glad that things have worked out like that, but if I do need to face them, OK I'll do it," he continued. "Last year I played against Chelsea with Inter, and then you have to forget about sentimental attachments, but that isn't something that comes easily to me. So not playing against them is a positive."
Having scratched a seven-season itch by finally returning to the last eight, Madrid will attempt to press on towards the Wembley final. With some key absentees, Mourinho feels it could be time for his former Premier League stars to shine – including Liverpool FC old boys Álvaro Arbeloa and Xabi Alonso.
Once of Arsenal FC and Manchester City FC, Emmanuel Adebayor may also be asked to lead the line. "He might be the only attacker," said Mourinho, who could at least welcome back striker Gonzalo Higuaín from long-term injury against Sporting Gijón. "
We won't have Benzema, Cristiano and Marcelo, so it's clear that we feel a bit limited. But it's our job to compete."
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.