|Atletico Madrid players at a training session, in Madrid, on Monday. (Reuters)
Madrid: 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 in 2013.
“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 teams after triumphing 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 1-2 home reverse to Premier League strugglers Sunderland, Mourinho’s first league defeat at Stamford Bridge 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.
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 said after the Elche game the Belgium international will feature.
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.
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
Meanwhile, Samuel Eto’ is out of semi-final due to 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 on Monday. (Reuters)