Real Madrid have been boosted by the return of Cristiano Ronaldo for tomorrow's UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg against Tottenham as the Spanish giants continue their quest for a record tenth European title.
Ronaldo had been a serious doubt for the clash after suffering a hamstring strain in the 19 March derby against Atletico, an injury which saw him miss two friendlies with Portugal and Saturday's league defeat to Sporting Gijon. Mourinho hinted after that match he might risk Ronaldo against Spurs and, after seeing him train without problems this afternoon, included the world's most expensive player in a 19-man squad.
There was further good news for Madrid with Marcelo, Angel Di Maria and Kaka also being available after injury doubts, while Gonzalo Higuain, who made his return against Sporting after over four months out, is also in the squad.
However, the nine-time European champions will be without in-form striker Karim Benzema. The Frenchman, who has scored 12 goals in his last 12 games and 21 in all competitions this season, suffered a hamstring injury on international duty and he sits the game out.
However, the return of Ronaldo - even though he might not be in perfect condition - is a timely fillip for Madrid as they look to bounce back from their shock loss to Sporting. That reverse ended Madrid's 25-match winning streak at the Bernabeu and was the first home league defeat Mourinho had suffered as coach in over nine years. It was also a potentially decisive result in Madrid's bid to wrest the Primera Division title off arch-rivals Barcelona, who are now eight points clear with just eight games to go.
Madrid cannot dwell on that match though, or the potential demise of their title dreams, as they prepare to play their first Champions League quarter-final since 2004, having fallen at the last 16 stage in each of the last six years.
"We can't think about Saturday's game, we need to think about the Champions League," said Mourinho. "It's a game many want to play in and not everyone can. It's been several years since Real Madrid have played in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. It's a game in the most important club competition in the world and there's no lack of motivation. It's a match that is too nice and too important to think about other things. I give the match a 10 (out of 10) for importance."
Jose's big ambition
Mourinho, who is looking to become the first coach to conquer Europe with three different clubs, also reiterated that a 0-0 draw in tomorrow's first leg would not necessarily be a poor scoreline for Madrid, even though they are playing at home. "Since I've been playing in the Champions League I've said that a goalless draw at home in the first match is not a bad result, although that doesn't mean we will be going out to play for a draw," he said.
Tomorrow's clash will pit Mourinho against one of his old friends in Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, who has impressed since taking the hot-seat at White Hart Lane two-and-a-half years ago.
Mourinho, the former Chelsea manager, said of his opposite number: "He is my friend, and friends are always nice to each other. I say nice things about him and he does me. That's life. When I was in England he was not managing teams with a possibility of reaching these kind of ambitions. Finally after the good work he was doing, he went to Tottenham, who had the resources to build a good team. I'm very, very happy (for him). I hope, and I say this from my heart, that if I don't reach the final, then I hope he does it."