With his side on the verge of their first UEFA Champions League semi-final in eight years, Real Madrid CF coach José Mourinho has urged his players to thrive on the unique atmosphere of the competition as they look to end the challenge of Tottenham Hotspur FC.
Nine-time winners Madrid moved a step closer to the last four with a 4-0 home victory last week, in their first quarter-final joust since 2003/04, and Mourinho hopes his charges are starting to feel at home again in the latter stages of Europe's top club tournament.
"You have to consider the quality of our players, but some of them have never played in the quarter-finals," he said. "
To taste and feel this for the first time, the emotion connected to this competition – a competition that for me is the most important in world football – can only help them.
"This doesn't jeopardise their potential or put them under pressure," he added. "On the contrary: they have to enjoy these moments, moments that are unique. On top of that, Tottenham are playing very well and to play a Champions League match in England, with such a spectacular atmosphere, is fantastic."
Madrid recruited the Portuguese trainer last summer with a view to restoring the club to the front lines of the continental game, and so far the partnership has proved fruitful. The capital outfit trail FC Barcelona in the Liga, but in Europe they have flourished, dispatching bogey side Olympique Lyonnais 3-0 at the Santiago Bernabéu in the round of 16 before the defeat of Tottenham.
Having won the competition with FC Internazionale Milano last term and FC Porto in 2003/04, however, Mourinho knows better than to take Harry Redknapp's men for granted in Wednesday's second leg. The former Chelsea FC tactician expects a typically swashbuckling Premier League-style approach from the London team, with added guile coming from their overseas talents.
"They know how they need to play," he said. "They're an English team and they'll always be one. They have an English coach who can't deny his culture and background, which has been shaped by so many games in England.
"On the other hand, they have people who see football in a different way. They have [Luka] Modrić, they have [Rafael] van der Vaart, they have Sandro – a Brazilian player, a Dutch one and a Croatian, people with a completely different football culture. From that mix comes a team I like a lot."
Finishing the job against Spurs at White Hart Lane would take Mourinho closer to becoming the first coach to lift the European Champion Clubs' Cup with three separate sides; it is a challenge that excites him. "If you think about it, it's a different kind of record," he explained. "It's one thing to win three cups with the same club and a different one to win the cup three times with three different clubs in different countries, and in very different time periods.
"I would like to achieve it, of course, but without being obsessed by it.
I'm passionate about playing games on an extraordinary level, games that you'll never forget. I'm passionate about doing things well and making people happy. Winning a Champions League trophy is something that truly has an impact on the fans. Until the end of my career, I will always be trying to win it one more time, but without it ever becoming an obsession."
Madrid remain similarly determined to increase their haul in the competition, and the 48-year-old concedes that the sheer magnitude of the storied club can make his job difficult. "Its infrastructure is huge and it's not easy to have everything under control," said Mourinho. "It's a very demanding club and you have to give your very best. But it's a pleasure for me because I knew it wouldn't be that easy.
"I knew the club wasn't structured so that I could come here and concentrate strictly on my own stuff. We need to look at all these dimensions and try to structure Real Madrid so we can achieve the kinds of results that made it the club of the 20th century."
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