Tonight will be the biggest test of Jose Mourinho’s capabilities as Real Madrid’s manager. Having drawn against Lyon in France three weeks ago his side must progress in the Santiago Bernabeu this evening to ensure that his future remains in Madrid.
It is hard to believe that Real have not advanced past the 2nd round since 2005. The trophy that they almost regard as their own has been unattainable since 2002 which makes the competition a priority for Mourinho. After the 5-0 humiliation at the hands of bitter rivals Barcelona at the end of November the focus has moved towards this trophy (it is also the one the Portuguese manager covets more than any other), but they have failed to beat Lyon in 7 previous meetings.
There have been severe problems behind the scenes at Real this season; the manager believes promises have been broken by the board and there have been issues between him and the general manager Jorge Valdano. The President Florentino Perez has backed the Portuguese manager in recent weeks but there remain rumours of a return to the Premier League for Mourinho. It is tough for him at the moment though, Barcelona are the best team in the world and closing the gap will take longer than a year. The question is will he get the time or not? I feel that if there is any pressure or negativity from the board he will walk in the summer and return to his beloved England.
There is little doubt in Mourinho’s ability as a manager as his record speaks for itself; 5 league titles in 8 years in 3 different leagues, 2 Champions League wins and several domestic cups. His star man and fellow countryman Ronaldo is missing tonight which will be a huge loss as he has already scored 37 goals this season but Karim Benzema will lead the line tonight after some impressive recent displays. Recent history suggests it will be a tough encounter for Madrid tonight but with Mourinho in their corner few would back against them.