MADRID: The group stage of the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League begins tonight with the star opening offering being the match-up in the Estadio Bernabeu of Real Madrid and Manchester City in the so-called ‘group of death.’
Madrid have plenty to prove to their fans after a stuttering start to the season while Manchester City have the ambition to improve on last season when they were relegated out of the group stages into the Europa League.
It will not always be like that according to Madrid coach Jose Mourinho.
He has compared the investment over the past four years by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan with that of his old club Chelsea under Roman Abramovich.
Mourinho said: “I don’t think it is very different to Chelsea. Since Roman bought the club, Claudio Ranieri was the first coach, then I came and we won the first league, some cups and some more titles. Carlo Ancelotti then came and they continued to win and finally they won the Champions League.
“With City it started off with Mark Hughes, they started spending money and buying good players. Then Roberto Mancini came and he has done a very good job. He has created a great squad, the first cup then the first title arrived.
“I don’t know if it is this season or next season with Roberto, or with another person in the future, but normally in the direction the club is going, sooner or later they will win the big cup.”
Mourinho will not make wholesale changes despite questioning some of his players’ commitment after Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Sevilla.
“The line-up will not be very different,” he said, ” nor will I try to show any player that they are not in the best condition. It will be the best that I consider to play against opposition full of players of the highest level. I don’t believe I have created doubts. The principal person responsible is me. When my teams win, we win together, and when we lose, I am the one responsible.
“Before losing to Sevilla I said to the players what I then said in the press conference. For this reason it is not a criticism but a conviction. I said it to them before the game.
“Football is about today and tomorrow, not yesterday. Yesterday is history. I haven’t been able to keep my players motivated and concentrated at the top level and that is my fault.”
Mourinho also dismissed suggestions that with Barcelona already having opened up an eight-point league in the Primera Division, his side would come under greater pressure to get off to a good start in Europe.
“At this level, players and managers have already won things,” he said. “All of us have titles, professional and economic stability, we needn’t be worried about people nor waiting on their reaction. No one pressures me, I pressure myself. No one motivates me, I motivate myself also.
“To play against City motivates me as much as playing against Getafe. To win the Champions League motivates me like any other match. Motivation is something intrinsic to the job.
“The conviction is that tomorrow we will have a team. A determined, compact and solid team.”
Group A: Paris S-G v Dynamo Kyiv, Dinamo Zagreb v Porto
Group B: Olympiacos v Schalke, Montpellier v Arsenal
Group C: Milan v Anderlecht, Malaga v Zenit
Group D: Real Madrid v Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund v Ajax.
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