Mar 23, 2011

Mourinho hails Spurs' Euro effort

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Jose Mourinho Mourinho is bidding to win the Champions League for a third timeReal Madrid manager Jose Mourinho has hailed the Champions League run of quarter-final opponents Tottenham - but expects his team to bring it to an end.

Real and Spurs, who have reached the last eight in their debut in Europe's premier tournament, will face each other over two legs on 5 and 13 April.

And Mourinho told BBC 5 live: "It is fantastic for Tottenham. They have a reason to be proud already.

"But I believe we are the better team and I believe we are going to do it."

Speaking in London as he took a break from his club duties during a week of international football, the former Chelsea boss lavished praise on the north London club - even suggesting it was "possible" for Harry Redknapp's team to win the competition outright.

However, he also admitted he was glad to avoid his former clubs, Chelsea and Inter Milan, when the draw was made on 18 March.

"I didn't want Chelsea or Inter, because last season it was difficult for me to play against Chelsea [as manager of Inter when the Italians beat the Blues 3-1 in the last 16).

"I did it, I did everything I could to help my team but I was not comfortable because I don't like to play against my friends.

"So I didn't want Inter and Chelsea, after that any team is difficult and any team is a motivation for us.

"Tottenham are a good team, they beat Inter [3-1 at White Hart Lane in Group A], they beat Milan [1-0 on aggregate in their last-16 tie]. They have ambitions, are a very good team, have very good players and a good manager in Harry. You can feel it is a happy team and happy teams are dangerous teams."

After leaving European champions Inter in the summer, Mourinho had endured a difficult start to his Bernabeu tenure - including being on the end of a 5-0 thumping to fierce enemies Barcelona in November.

Real still trail Barca - by five points - in La Liga, while the rivals will face off again in the Copa del Rey final on 20 April.

But now the Portuguese has good reason to believe his team will end the season in much better fashion than they started.

Real are unbeaten in eight league matches, and their stylish 4-1 aggregate demolition of Lyon 4-1 in the last 16 of the Champions League provided yet more evidence that Mourinho could well succeed in his bid to become the first man to win the Champions League with three different clubs.

Tottenham is a happy team, and happy teams are dangerous teams

"I keep thinking and saying that it is a very, very young team, so I think the second season will be the great season for this Real Madrid team," opined Mourinho.

"But when you arrive in April and you are in three competitions and everything is open you cannot say: 'I'm not ready for it, I don't want it, I don't try it.'

"The team is coming up, some boys are adapting, people like [Mesut] Ozil, [Angel] Di Maria, arriving for the first team in Spanish football, they are much more comfortable at this moment.

"[Argentine striker Gonzalo] Higuain was a six-month blow [recovering from a hernia operation] for us but is ready to play so it looks like we are arriving strong in the last moment of the season when every match is a final, every defeat kills your chances and every victory feeds your ambition."

Mourinho, of course, earned his reputation as a master of negotiating teams through the "business end" of seasons, firstly, at Porto, where he own the 2004 Champions League, and, aftewards at Chelsea.

In three glory-filled years at Stamford Bridge, 'The Special One' brought two Premier League trophies, two League Cups and one FA Cup back to west London.

He believes, though, that the standard has, albeit ever-so-slightly, dropped among English football's elite.

"At this moment in the Premier League, they are losing a lot of points. Every team had a difficult moment - Man United not winning away from home for a long time, Chelsea losing matches consecutively, with this situation Man City and Arsenal didn't arrive [to overtake them].

"So, for me, it looks like the top teams have lost a little bit. But these are moments. They are top teams and the reason you can see it because you have a quarter-final of English clubs in the Champions League and you will have at least one English club in the semi-final."

Mourinho, meanwhile, was uncharacteristically reticent about the controversy over the England international team's captaincy.

John Terry, who captained Mourinho's Chelsea, was stripped of the skipper's armband 13 months ago amid allegations over his private life, but this week Three Lions coach Fabio Capello reinstated the central defender at the expense of, and reportedly to the chagrin of, Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand.

Asked about the situation, Mourinho said: "I don't know completely the process. Because I know him [Terry], he is a great captain. I never worked with Rio Ferdinand before, but I have no doubt Rio Ferdinand is also a great captain.

"For some national teams it's difficult to chose one. In England they have so many people with character to be captains - Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard - the English national team is full of big personalities and players to chose the perfect candidate."

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