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Mourinho's final ambition

Published: Wednesday 21 April 2004, 12.50CET
José Mourinho was in confident mood ahead of FC Porto's meeting with RC Deportivo La Coruña tonight.

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Published: Wednesday 21 April 2004, 12.50CET

Mourinho's final ambition

José Mourinho was in confident mood ahead of FC Porto's meeting with RC Deportivo La Coruña tonight.

By Fergus O'Shea in Porto

FC Porto coach José Mourinho has thrown down the gauntlet to his players ahead of the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final against RC Deportivo La Coruña at the Estádio do Dragão. "I know we can win this tie and I know we can win the final," he said.

Double dream
The only club left in the tournament to have won the European Champion Clubs' Cup - in 1987 - Porto now hope to emulate Liverpool FC and win the UEFA Cup and European Cup in successive seasons. However, Mourinho is under no illusions about the quality of the opposition on Wednesday night.

Close encounter
"I am aware that we can lose this semi-final and that would be the end of it," he said. "A likely and good result would be 1-0 or 2-1, but whatever happens it's going to be a close one - the teams are very equal. I don't think there will be a big win for either side in either of the games."

Home strength
While Mourinho would like to rely on his side's strong home form to secure a narrow first-leg advantage, he is confident that victory will come Porto's way over the course of the tie. "Even if it is a close result here, we have a very good away record and so are not afraid of going to La Coruna," he said. "A defeat would be bad but a draw would be a normal result. It would leave everything open. A win, even by one goal, would be an excellent result."

Injury free
The Portuguese champions have managed to avoid injury problems and Mourinho will have the same crop of players available to him that defeated Olympique Lyonnais in the quarter-finals. In a pair of professional performances, Porto beat Lyon 2-0 at home before holding the French champions to a 2-2 draw at the Stade Gerland.

Dramatic progress
This passage to the last four contrasts starkly with the way their opponents reached this stage. Deportivo were on the cusp of elimination after a 4-1 defeat by AC Milan at the San Siro, only to overturn that deficit with a breathtaking 4-0 second-leg win at the Riazor.

The good life
The drama of that night has given the Galician club the confidence to believe that this could be their year. "Life has been very good since then," said defender Jorge Andrade, formerly of Porto. "We beat Milan and now we are thinking we are capable of going through against Porto. We are united to do our best."

Munitis absent
Deportivo coach Javier Irureta is without injured winger Pedro Munitis but will be able to call on the attacking trio of Walter Pandiani, Víctor Sánchez and Alberto Luque which dismantled Milan. "Our aim will be to score away from home and tip the balance in our favour when we play them in La Coruna," he said.

Concentration is key
After conceding four goals in their last Champions League away game, Irureta has implored his players to concentrate from the start of both halves against a quick-fire Porto team. "Porto have an aggressive, offensive style," he said. "They are really difficult to play against early in the game and at the start of the second half. They are ambitious and they put you under a lot of pressure. I'm sure they will want to get a result good enough to give them guarantees in the return."

Last updated: 23/04/04 14.52CET