MADRID (AFP) – Real Madrid will put their dire start to the season in La Liga behind them when they face English champions Manchester City in their Champions League opener here on Tuesday, coach Jose Mourinho claimed.
The 49-year-old Portuguese — a two-time Champions League winner with Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan in 2010 — had given the players a tongue-lashing after Saturday’s 1-0 defeat by Sevilla, which was their second defeat in four league games this season and left them already eight points adrift of bitter rivals Barcelona.
Mourinho, though, was keen to move on at the eve-of-match press conference and, in a rare moment of humility, admitted that the reason for their poor start was down to him failing to motivate the players enough.
“My belief is that tomorrow, I will have a team,” said Mourinho, who last season guided Real to the title and ended bitter rivals Barcelona’s stranglehold on it.
“It will be a united team, where everyone will work for everyone else, where everyone will be at the top of their commitment and ability.
“Maybe we will be missing a little bit of calmness and a little self esteem.
“That’s normal, it is not easy to play against Manchester City when one knows how horribly we performed against Sevilla.
“But I think that I will have a team at the top of its game.”
Whilst Mourinho had slammed the players on Saturday, saying not enough of them had played as if football was their priority in life, he adopted a different tone on Monday.
“I consider that the man most responsible for this bad start is me because I have not been capable of motivating the players enough. If there were any doubts about who was responsible for that let them end now.”
Mourinho, who has also had to cope with the troubled emotional state of star player Cristiano Ronaldo — who said a fortnight ago he was “sad” without elaborating further — rejected claims that he had lost the support of the dressing room.
“That relationship couldn’t be better,” he said.
“I am loved by those who are important. That is to say my family above all, my players and my staff. Here at the club I have good relations with everybody.”
Madrid — who Mourinho has taken to the Champions League semi-finals in the past two seasons, losing to Barcelona and then Bayern Munich — will also face German champions Borussia Dortmund and Dutch title-holders Ajax in Group D.