Jose Mourinho needs a win tonight at the San Mames against Athletic Bilbao to clinch his first major title as a Real Madrid coach and his seventh championship since he became a manager. The Champions League exit may have hurt a little, but as we move further away from the tense days of the Clasico, Mourinho is back on talking terms with the media, even regarding Guardiola.
His team had no problems rebounding from the painful penalty shootout defeat against Bayern, cruising at home against Sevilla to a 3-0 win, seeing Cristiano Ronaldo score his 43rd goal of the season while Karim Benzema netted a brace. Real now hold a 7 points led over Barcelona with three matches left to play. It doesn’t look likely that Barcelona will be able to erase the difference. Better put – Real won’t suddenly fail to win three consecutive matches.
The scoreline from the first match against Bilbao, 4-1, isn’t telling the whole story, with the Basque team playing rather well, the same way Valencia did a few weeks ago. Real enjoyed two penalty kicks, and Bilbao’s chances fell apart after a sending off. Things will be very different at the San Mames. Bilbao have European and maybe even Champions League qualification to fight for, besides their Europa League final against Atletico Madrid looming in the near future.
Not that Bilbao players need any incentive in beating Real Madrid, as the matches between the two in Bilbao are usually surrounded by a very heated atmosphere. Bilbao have lost only once in their last 10 home matches, but Real Madrid defy all these statistics that mean more when the other 18 teams clash.
You’d expect Mourinho to sound excited about the forthcoming match, but he sounded relaxed. A tone of apathy maybe as well.
I’m normally a calm person. This won’t be my last championship, so I’m pretty sure I’ll have more opportunities to celebrate. Either way, I’m not one for lavish celebrations (ahem, ahem). I’ve never hid the fact that winning a title here is one of my goals, and it will definitely be a happy moment.
I love playing in Bilbao. It’s not the friendliest place towards the visiting team but it’s a great stadium that breathes football. They have a great team with good players and fresh legs (zing). It won’t be an easy match, but because a win will secure the title, we’ll try and do it without any pressure.
As for Guardiola? You couldn’t expect the Spanish media not to ask Guardiola about it. You couldn’t expect Mourinho not to answer and volunteer his opinion about Barcelona’s head coach, leaving at the end of the season.
It’s his decision. When coaches are fired from their clubs there’s a need for solidarity between us, but his case is different. The most important thing is that he’s happy with his decision.
I’ve been a coach for 12 years now, and I get tired only during the summer (zing). Each to his own, we need to accept that. I hope Guardiola enjoys his time away from the game and I embrace him from here.
Vilanova? My decision to stay with Real Madrid doesn’t depend on the identity of Barcelona’s next head coach. If that’s the man they chose, I’m sure they know what they’re doing. Barcelona will continue to be our biggest rivals in Spain regardless of who’s in charge.