Jose Mourinho relishing challenge of Real Madrid's big week
Jose Mourinho is looking forward to what could be the make-or-break week in Real Madrid's season.
Last Updated: 26/02/13 7:07pm
With their Primera Division title all but lost, Madrid must focus on the Copa del Rey and Champions League to try to bring silverware to the Bernabeu this season, but face tough tasks to progress in both competitions in the next eight days.
Tonight they travel to arch rivals Barcelona for the second leg of their Copa semi-final, while next Tuesday they will be at Old Trafford for the second leg of the Champions League last-16 tie with Manchester United.
Both ties are delicately poised at 1-1 after first legs in Madrid.
If that was not enough to get the juices flowing in the Madrid squad, there is the small matter of another Clasico in the league when Barca come in the opposite direction on Saturday evening.
"These are the sort of matches that we like to play, that everyone wants to play," Mourinho said.
"I prefer matches that are this difficult. We are ready and we are all looking forward to playing these big matches."
Madrid trail Barcelona by 16 points in the table, but there has been little to choose between the two in head-to-head meetings of late.
While the first leg of this tie was a draw, so was their league match in Madrid in October, finishing 2-2, while it took away goals for Mourinho's men to claim the Super Cup when it finished 4-4 over two legs.
However, Mourinho has no interest in what has gone before.
"It is a match that has nothing to do with the others that we've played against them," he said. "Nothing else comes into it, they are a great opponent. We have to try to play our best and get the best result."
Madrid were less than convincing in securing a late 2-1 victory over relegation-threatened Deportivo La Coruna at the weekend, even if Mourinho did make several changes, including giving a rest to Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, they expect to be back to full strength tomorrow with Mourinho confirming that Xabi Alonso and Karim Benzema will be available after coming though training sessions.
Controversy is rarely far away when these two sides are preparing to meet, and Barcelona assistant Jordi Roura has fired the first shots by lamenting the selection of referee Undiano Mallenco for the match.
Roura claimed Barca rarely do well under Undiano's jurisdiction, pointing to their sole league loss so far this season and saying, "With Undiano, our numbers are always worse".
However, Mourinho refused to be drawn into the debate.
"I'd rather stick to the sporting lessons that we have received from Barcelona in the past, to not talk about referees or pressure them, to not look for cards or simulate bookings for our opponents and obviously to play football, which they do very well," he said.