By Matthew Spiro in Gelsenkirchen
AS Monaco FC coach Didier Deschamps is relishing his tactical duel with José Mourinho in tomorrow's UEFA Champions League final.
Deschamps and FC Porto chief Mourinho have been widely acclaimed as the best young coaches in Europe this season, and the Frenchman admitted today that he was excited by the challenge. "We have beaten some good sides already this year but Porto will be the toughest test yet," he said.
"They might not have the prestige of Real Madrid [CF], but they have a solid team and the kind of individuals who can win matches. They are the favourites and it's another great challenge for Monaco."
The 35-year-old has plenty of respect for his opposite number and believes that tactics could play a decisive role in the Arena AufSchalke. "[Mourinho] clearly knows how to get the best out of his players and what he has done at Porto is phenomenal," Deschamps pointed out. "He is a shrewd manager and I am expecting it to be an interesting tactical battle. It will be decided on very small details."
Indeed, caution is the watchword. "It is unusual for finals to be open and spectacular because there is so much pressure and so much at stake," Deschamps said. "In football you never know - an early goal could change that - but the tendency is to play with a little more caution and to take less risks than normal."
That said, Monaco are the competition's leading scorers with 27 goals and Deschamps confirmed that they would try to impose their attacking game on Porto. "The key will be whether we can put them in difficulty without leaving ourselves exposed at the back," he said. "
Porto are experts at hitting you on the counterattack but I will tell my players that they have to take some risks."
Deschamps also hinted that he would put a marker on Porto playmaker Deco in order to reduce that counterattcking threat. "There is no doubt that Deco is crucial to their attacking game," he said. "He has freedom to roam where he wants on the pitch and, of course, it will be important for us to try to limit his influence. But saying any more would be giving away too much."
Monaco feel that they have a matchwinner of their own in Fernando Morientes, the competition's leading scorer with nine goals, and Deschamps is expecting the Spanish international to set the example again in Gelsenkirchen.
"He has an important role both on and off the pitch because he is a great player and he also has experience," Deschamps said. "He has won the Champions League three times [with Real Madrid] but he always shows humility with the young players. Big players shine in the big games and that's invariably the case with Fernando."
Meanwhile, Monaco captain Ludovic Giuly, likely to play in his familiar right-sided role after moving into the middle against Chelsea FC, was adamant that the match would not spark an exodus of players in the summer. "This squad has been progressing together for the last two years and we will continue to progress together next year," he said.
The 27-year-old is clearly up for tomorrow's game. "We've had an amazing season and now we have to make one last big effort to make it an unforgettable one," Giuly added. "
We know we have got a chance and we are going to do everything possible to take it."
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