Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho has saluted the impact Tottenham Hotspur have had on the Champions League this season – but the former Chelsea and Internazionale manager fully expects his side to be the one to progress when the two sides meet in the quarter-finals.
Spurs have thrilled neutrals during their run to the last eight with their brand of attacking expansive football, and Harry Redknapp’s side are even ‘possible’ winners according to Mourinho, if they can beat the nine-times winners over two legs at the start of April.
But in typical Mourinho fashion, the Portugese is confident that his side will put an end to the North London sides european adventure.
“It is fantastic for Tottenham. They have a reason to be proud already” Mourinho told BBC 5 Live.
“But I believe we are the better team and I believe we are going to do it.”
Mourinho, who Redknapp has never beaten when the two have clashed before as managerial adversaries, was, however, full of praise for the 64-year-old Spurs boss and his side.
“Tottenham are a good team, they beat Inter [3-1 at White Hart Lane during the group stages], they beat Milan [1-0 on aggregate in their last-16 tie]” added Mourinho.
“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.”
Since arriving at the Bernabeu in the summer, Mourinho has set about guiding Los Galacticos to their 10th title in europe’s premier club competition – which would also be his third with three different clubs, following successes with Porto (2004) and Inter (2010)- whilst trying to prise Barcelona’s grip from the Spanish title.
Real still trail their great rivals by five points, and were humiliated 5-0 in November at Camp Nou, but Mourinho’s side are arriving at the business end of the season with their goals firmly in sight.
Los Blancos go into April still in with a chance of catching Pep Guardiola’s side in the league (they must still meet in La Liga at the Bernabeu, where Madrid have won every match they have played since “the special one” arrived).
Also they arrive at the last eight of the Champions League, in blistering form, as demonstrated by the second leg destruction of Olympique Lyonnais 3-0, and with the Copa Del Rey final against Barca on April 20. In Mourinho’s debut season in the Spanish capital, a treble remains on the cards.
Nonetheless, Mourinho believes his side is still a young one and we won’t see the best of it until next season – the likes of Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria, Karim Benzema, Marcelo and Sergio Ramos are all under 25 – but despite this, he is confident that his side are ready to finish the current campaign with a flourish.
“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,” stated Mourinho matter-of-factly.
“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 Ozil (the creative German playmaker), Di Maria (the quicksilver Argentine winger), arriving for the first team in Spanish football, they are much more comfortable at this moment.
“(Argentina international striker Gonzalo) Higuain was a six-month blow 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.”