Atletico Madrid sent Jose Mourinho packing without a major trophy in his final season in Spain and the surprise Champions League semi-finalists are itching to land another blow on the Portuguese coach.
Mourinho’s Chelsea play their last four, first leg at the Calderon on Tuesday against an Atletico side riding high in La Liga and through to the semi-finals of Europe’s elite club competition for the first time in 40 years.
In Mourinho’s third and final campaign at Real in 2012-13, they had been knocked out of the Champions League by Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona had wrapped up the La Liga title when they hosted Atletico in the King’s Cup final at their own Bernabeu stadium.
But Miranda’s extra time header secured a 2-1 comeback win for Diego Simeone’s inspired Atletico side in an action-packed and ill-tempered clash in which Mourinho and forward Cristiano Ronaldo were both sent off.
“You don’t have to be a magician to tell that the result of the final was not fair, that Atletico is not a just winner,” Mourinho told a post-match news conference.
Now back at Chelsea, Mourinho is seeking to avenge that bitter reverse as he makes his latest bid to become the first manager to win the European Cup with three different clubs after triumphs with Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan in 2010.
He and his expensively assembled squad face a stiff task against an Atletico team who are top of La Liga and closing on a first domestic league title since 1996 when a team featuring Simeone won a La Liga and King’s Cup double.
Atletico warmed up for Tuesday’s clash with a 2-0 win at home to Elche, while Chelsea slipped to a shock 2-1 home reverse to Premier League strugglers Sunderland, Mourinho’s first league defeat at Stamford Bridge across tenures in 78 matches.
Mourinho refused to answer questions after the game and appeared to blame the referee for Chelsea’s setback, which severely damaged their title chances, rather than his players.
“They did everything they could,” he told a news conference.
“They fought, they played from the first to the last second and they deserve that (praise),” added the 51-year-old. “Sometimes we praise them when we win but I think it’s fair to praise my players after a defeat.”
The courtois question
There has been some doubt over whether Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who is on loan from Chelsea, would be able to play against his parent club but Simeone had said after the Elche game the Belgium international will feature in the match.
As part of the loan deal, the two clubs agreed a penalty clause that meant Atletico would have to pay a hefty fee to deploy Courtois against Chelsea but governing body UEFA said such a clause was against competition rules.
“Nobody has said anything to me so as it stands he will play,” Simeone said. “It is not an issue for dialogue as far as we are concerned.”
The Cup final defeat to Atletico was the only blemish on Mourinho’s record against them with Real, who won all eight of their other meetings during his tenure.
However, Atletico are the only unbeaten side left in the Champions League and have won all five of their home matches in the latest edition, including superb victories against former winners AC Milan and Barca.
The winners of the tie will play Real or Bayern Munich in the final in Lisbon on May 24.
Chelsea forward Samuel Eto’o is out of Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg at Atletico Madrid because of injury. The Cameroon international has a “minor knee irritation”, while Belgium winger Eden Hazard travelled with the rest of the squad to Spain despite missing the last two games with a calf problem, the club said on their website (www.chelseafc.com) on Monday.
The 33-year-old’s absence means former Atletico captain Fernando Torres, Demba Ba or Andre Schuerrle are likely to start against Atletico.
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo completed a full training session on Monday as he races to regain fitness before Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final, first leg at home to holders Bayern Munich. The Portugal captain, who has missed Real’s last four matches with knee and muscle problems in his left leg, is the top scorer in Europe’s elite club competition this term with 14 goals, equalling a season’s record.
Wales winger Gareth Bale was unable to train due to a bout of flu, the club added without specifying whether he was expected to recover for the match at the Bernabeu.