MADRID — Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has insisted he will not make many changes to his team for the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal against APOEL Nicosia Wednesday.
After the 3-0 victory in Nicosia last week, Real can, barring a miracle, almost certainly look forward to a semifinal place against the winner of the tie between Bayern Munich and Marseille.
But Mourinho said that he would be fielding a near first-choice lineup despite the huge advantage his side holds over the Cypriot minnows.
“Few people think that APOEL can win 4-0 here but we must respect our public and our rivals,” the former Chelsea coach said. “I will therefore make very few changes and we will go out there with a very strong team.”
Bayern is set to defend a 2-0 lead over the French side in Munich and look to be favorite to meet Madrid in the semifinal.
“I think for APOEL to reach the quarterfinals they can’t be a weak team, they have beaten Lyon to get this far and we have great respect for them,” Marcelo said. “All players want to win the Champions League and I am no different, but there are many games ahead of us still.
“Madrid is always favorite to win any competition in which it competes, but we still have a lot of work if we are to be champions this season. We have to go into the game Wednesday with our heads right and we’ll do all we can to make sure we go through,” he added.
Marcelo has been joined by teammates Xabi Alonso and compatriot Kaka in stating what the goals are for what remains of the season.
“The objective is to win both the league and the Champions League,” agreed both players.
Madrid is certainly still on course for the first half of that double. An important 5-1 victory Saturday away to Osasuna, a problematic trip for Madrid in the past, means ‘Los Blancos’ remains 6 points ahead of Barca at the top of La Liga with 8 games remaining.
Cristiano Ronaldo was key Saturday, scoring a double and creating two more for his side, in a stadium in which he had failed to win or score on his previous two visits.
The Portuguese star has also spoken of the club being on the right track for a Champions and La Liga double.
“I won’t be a hypocrite, the tie is 90% won, we just need to add the other 10%, but anything can happen in football,” he said.
Another player hitting form at just the right stage of the season is Karim Benzema who scored two in the first leg in Cyprus and also grabbed a brace against Osasuna including a stunning volley that has been likened to Dutch legend Marco Van Basten’s most spectacular efforts.
APOEL, the first Cypriot team to reach the knockout stage of the Champions League, started this season’s journey back in July in the second qualifying round with a 2-0 victory at Albanian side Skenderbeu, and since then has produced some incredible performances.
APOEL will take heart from the fact that it held the Spanish giant for 73 minutes in the first leg and take the most from the chance to play in one of sports great arenas. — Agencies