Old scores to settle for Mourinho

Chelsea manager comes up against Atletico Madrid for first time since cup defeat as teams meet in Champions League semi.

    Old scores to settle for Mourinho
    In happier times: Mourinho and Simeone before the Portuguese lost the Copa del Rey final last year [GALLO/GETTY]

    Teams in red and white stripes have not been kind to Jose Mourinho in the past year.

    And while the Portuguese coach will be focusing on team performance not personal grudges when Chelsea travel to Atletico Madrid, he would also take some pleasure in tearing a strip off some old rivals if he came away with a win.

    While the red and white of Sunderland gave Mourinho his first Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge in 78 matches on Saturday, it came almost 11 months to the day since the Rojiblancos of Atletico ended his chances of a final trophy before he headed through the exit door at Real Madrid.

    That 2-1 result handed Diego Simeone's Atletico the 2012-13 Copa del Rey title, but both coaches have a much bigger prize in mind when they kick off their Champions League semi-final first leg at the Vicente Calderon on Tuesday.

    Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has been cleared by UEFA to play against parent club Chelsea [AFP]

    Mourinho has won the European Cup twice, but never with his beloved Chelsea – who took the prize in 2012 while he was at Real.

    Simeone, meanwhile, has taken Atletico to their first semi-final in 40 years, adding to the euphoria of a season in which they are on the brink of their first La Liga title since the Argentine featured in midfield in 1996.

    What may anger Mourinho more than that Copa defeat of a year ago is the fact that the man-of-the-match on that occasion, Thibaut Courtois, is on loan from Chelsea and free to play against his parent club.

    An agreement had been in place that Atletico would pay Chelsea a reported $8million if the Frenchman played in the two legs, but that has been declared against competition rules by governing body UEFA.

    Simeone said the 21-year-old would be the same rock as he has been all season, both physically and mentally.

    "To me he seems in exactly the same state of mind as his 20 fellow squad members," Simeone told a news conference.

    "There is a great deal of enthusiasm. They are experiencing an important moment for the footballers, the institution and the fans. We are in a hopeful situation and we will try to give our best."

    Torres return

    Another man coming up against the shirt he once wore is Chelsea's Fernando Torres – although having struggled for form, the once-deadly Spain striker may not be picked by Mourinho.

    That was rarely the case in Madrid, where Torres became Atletico's youngest captain at the age of 19 and scored 84 goals in 214 La Liga matches before joining Liverpool in 2007.

    "He loves this club very much and he always takes an interest in what is happening with the team," Simeone said.

    "He might play, and it is normal that when the referee blows the whistle the fans won't be behind him. But when the game is over and even before it he will get the ovation he deserves.

    "He is one of us, a guy who is loved here. He will always be part of the Atletico family wherever he is."

    The second leg will be played at Stamford Bridge on April 30, with the winner going into the final in Lisbon against either Real or holders Bayern Munich on May 24.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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