Saturday, November 18, 2017

Barca-Real rivalry ready to heat up

Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho is not yet thinking about the UEFA Champions League semi-finals after his team beat Tottenham on Wednesday.

A second-half howler from Tottenham goal-keeper Heurelho Gomes gifted Cristiano Ronaldo the only goal of the game at White Hart Lane, Real winning 1-0 to take a 5-0 aggregate victory in the tie.

It sets up a semi-final El Clasico between Real and arch-rivals Barcelona.

But Mourinho said there were more pressing challenges for his side, who will face Pep Guardiola’s team in the La Liga on Saturday and in the final of the Copa del Rey on April 20 before the Champions League first-leg a week later.

“Let’s see what happens. We have ambition to beat Barcelona,” Mourinho told ITV Sport.

“The semi is a semi (and) anything can happen. We have two matches against them before the semi-final and there is no time to think.”

Mourinho insists his decision to play his strongest team was the right one, despite defender Ricardo Carvalho picking up a booking and consequently being suspended for the first leg of the semi-final.

“I think I was right when I decided to play with a good team because even playing with this team in a serious way Tottenham had a couple of chances,” Mourinho said.

“Of course 4-0 is a very good difference but if they had scored in the first half, with this incredible crowd, and this team, it could have been difficult but when Cristiano (Ronaldo) scored it was all over.”

Despite the loss, Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp believes his club can still be proud of a campaign that saw the club reach the quarter-finals of a competition they had never played in before.

“It was a fantastic experience for everybody and we’ve enjoyed every minute of the adventure,” Redknapp said.

“What we have do in the next few years is make sure that Tottenham build a team that can challenge every year and get in the Champions League.”

“There is no good doing it once and not doing it again. You have to keep improving.”

“You need to tweak your squad to keep doing it. That’s what we want, like Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United do every year. There is no reason why Tottenham can’t do that.”

Redknapp will now turn his attention to the Premier League, where he hopes Tottenham can finish third and gain automatic entry into next season’s Champions League group stage.

“It’s going to be tough,” Redknapp said. “We have to try and finish above Man City and Chelsea.”

“That’s what we are aiming at and it won’t be easy. We will give it everything we’ve got. We will play some great football, as we always do, and let’s see where it takes us.”

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