José Mourinho is gearing up for the "most important match in the world" as his FC Porto side go in search of a second European trophy in consecutive seasons.
Since taking charge of Porto in January 2002, Mourinho has already collected two league titles, the Portuguese Cup and the UEFA Cup. And tomorrow, in what could be his last match in charge of the Dragões, his players will try to equal Liverpool FC's feat in the 1970s of following a UEFA Cup success with victory in the European Champion Clubs' Cup.
'I want that cup'
For a man who has less than four years' experience as a head coach, simply taking Porto this far is an astonishing achievement. But Mourinho will only be satisfied with victory over AS Monaco FC. "At the beginning of the season we didn't expect to get here," he told reporters at the Arena AufSchalke. "Our goal was to win the Portuguese league and reach the knockout stage [of the UEFA Champions League] but now we are here we want to win. I want that cup so much."
Despite capturing last season's UEFA Cup, few would have predicted Porto getting within 90 minutes of repeating their 1987 European Cup success. Now that they are in the final, however, they are considered the favourites by many observers but Mourinho insisted both teams entered the final on an equal footing. "We are two very equal teams and both of us have got here by playing as a collective unit. If you don't have the world best ten players, to win a competition like this the players have to give their maximum."
Mourinho has certainly got the best out of his players and his starting lineup against Monaco is unlikely to differ greatly from the eleven who lined up against Celtic FC in Seville last May: Vítor Baía, Paulo Ferreira, Jorge Costa, Ricardo Carvalho, Nuno Valente, Costinha, Alenichev, Deco, Maniche, Capucho and Derlei.
Twelve months on and Mourinho will have to choose between Benni McCarthy and Carlos Alberto to play alongside Derlei. McCarthy and Carlos Alberto played together when Derlei was injured during the knockout rounds, but now that their talisman is fit again - and he marked his return with the semi-final winner against RC Deportivo La Coruña - there is no chance of him not starting.
In midfield, meanwhile, Mourinho must decide whether Pedro Mendes or Dmitri Alenichev will play. He said: "I know Monaco are prepared for the different scenarios that I can present and we are also prepared for their different options. My players know what to do if they play with [Fernando] Morientes and [Dado] Pršo, or just with Morientes, or with [Ludovic] Giuly on the right or up front. But because I don't know which system they will play I can't say mine."
Mourinho expects a "tactical match" against Didier Deschamps' men but whatever the tactical plans, this is a final and emotions will come into play. Mourinho believes that last year's experience in Seville "can be important". He said: "
We are living a déjà vu experience, and that can help the players tomorrow." By comparison, Monaco's only player with experience of a European final is Morientes, a three-times Champions League winner with Real Madrid CF.
Of course, even a UEFA Cup final is not the same as competing for European club football's Holy Grail. This is, in Mourinho's words, "the most important match in the world" and his advice to his players is "to do just what they have been doing for the past two and a half years. You can't win this kind of match if you don't control your emotions".
'Most important match in the world'
Mourinho added: "If we are playing the most important match in the world we have to be happy. That's what I want from them. They will not be the worst players if we don't win. We've had a fantastic week of training and if the match was today they would be completely ready. There's nothing else to prepare, just to enjoy our presence here."
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