Football Football

Mourinho braces for tough Bayern battle


MADRID, Spain, April 5- Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho predicted bitter rivals Barcelona would reach the Champions League final but was not sure whether his side would be strong enough to beat Bayern Munich and join them.

The Portuguese tactician — winner of the trophy with Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan in 2010 — was speaking after the nine-time European champions had breezed into the last four after beating plucky Cypriot side APOEL Nicosia 5-2 on the night and 8-2 on aggregate.

Mourinho, whose side lead champions Barcelona by six points in the Spanish league, said he foresaw few problems for holders Barcelona in their semi-final against one of his former teams Chelsea in their semi-final.

“Our semi will be a difficult match for both sides, but I am sure Barca will be the other finalist as they have such a good side,” he said.

“Bayern will obviously be a strong rival, they are a very powerful club both on and off the pitch with great fans and it’s a semi-final we all want to play, I think Europe in general will enjoy it,” he added.

His compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo echoed his sentiments about their next opponents, who have been crowned European champions four times.

“Bayern are one of the teams that can win the trophy so they will be a difficult opponent for us,” said Ronaldo, whose double strike against APOEL took his tally for the season to 49 goals.

Real will go into the Bayern clash with a near perfect Champions League record this season, winning nine out of ten games, and Mourinho said that having missed out in previous years his players are determined to land the trophy this time round.

“We will have players back from injury so we are well prepared for a difficult April,” he said.

“These players have failed to get to the final in the past few years so it is normal that they will be extra motivated to get past Bayern.

“We will have a tough first game in their stadium before bringing them to the Bernabeu but let’s see if we can all do enough to get through to that final.”

Goals from Kaka, Angel Di Maria and Jose Maria Callejon along with Ronaldo’s brace ensured the Spanish giants will meet Bayern Munich – who beat French side Marseille 2-0 on Tuesday and 4-0 on aggregate – in the final four.

Gustavo Manduca and an Esteban Solari penalty gave the Cypriots some consolation late in the match.

The result was never really in doubt after Real won the first leg 3-0 in Cyprus, but the visitors nevertheless gave a fighting performance on a wet night in the Spanish capital.

APOEL bow out of this season’s competition after a memorable run making them the first Cypriot team ever to reach the quarter-final stages.

Madrid peppered the APOEL goal from the start but had to bide their time before getting off the mark.

Ronaldo went close on 25 minutes when he headed a Nuri Sahin free-kick over the bar, but a minute later he made no mistake for the opening goal when a Marcelo cross from the left-wing found him unmarked six yards out.

Kaka then tried his luck with a curling right-footed drive from 20 yards on 34 minutes that went just high.

However two minutes later, from exactly the same position to the left of the area and five yards further out, he picked his spot perfectly, high to the right, to make it 2-0 to Madrid.

The Cypriots got their reward for enterprising play on 66 minutes when the Brazilian Manduca finished off a tidy move to reduce Madrid’s lead.

With 14 minutes remaining Ronaldo curled a stunning right-footed free-kick from a wide left position for his eighth goal in this year’s competition and two minutes later Callejon made it 4-1 with an unstoppable shot.

Solari, brother of former Madrid star Santiago, quickly pulled one back for APOEL from the penalty spot before Di Maria finished off the scoring with a delightful chip for Madrid.