Mourinho: We want more
Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has set his sights on qualifying for the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League as soon as possible ahead of tomorrow's Group D game against Lyon at the Bernabeu.
Madrid have picked up two wins from two games so far - 1-0 at Dinamo Zagreb and 3-0 at home to Ajax - and take on Les Gones knowing victory would move them to the brink of the last 16 as they look to improve on last year's performance in the competition, when they crashed out in an ill-tempered semi-final against Barcelona.
"The important thing is winning," Mourinho said at his pre-match press conference this afternoon. "Last year we got 10 points in the first four games and with these points we qualified. It is not easy to win games in the Champions League and now we have a start of six points. Winning the group may have a slight advantage in the draw for the next round. We want to qualify as soon as possible and advance further in the Champions League than we did last year."
He continued: "Real Madrid has always been an offensive team and I hope to play a balanced team to win games either at home or away. It is normal that with hard work the team becomes better. We want to be stronger this season than last, but that is not easy."
Mourinho will have to decide whether to go with Gonzalo Higuain or Karim Benzema - or both - up front, but was giving little away about his plans today. Higuain has scored three hat-tricks in his last four games - one for Argentina - while Benzema has netted five goals this season and will be keen to face his old club.
"You can play with both or one of them," Mourinho said. "Both are good and competition for places improves the team collectively. My goal is to unite, not divide. In the press it is different because they are debating who is better or worse. My thinking is different - we win and lose as a team. We have different objectives."
The Portuguese welcomes back left-back Marcelo after suspension, and has also included 22-year-old goalkeeper Tomas Mejias in his 19-man squad. Madrid head into the encounter buoyed by Saturday's 4-1 Primera Division victory over Real Betis, but Lyon too enjoyed a healthy home win - 3-1 against Nancy.
Les Gones drew 0-0 at Ajax in their opener before boosting their bid to reach the last 16 for the ninth straight season with a 2-0 home win over Dinamo Zagreb. Coach Remi Garde will be without Argentinian forward Lisandro Lopez (ankle) and midfield duo Clement Grenier (thigh) and Jeremy Pied (foot) for the match due to injuries.
The teams have faced each other in four of the past six campaigns, including at the last-16 stage for the past two campaigns. Madrid advanced last season, with Lyon triumphant the previous term. Garde told www.uefa.com: "There is a strange link between the two clubs and draws. For us it is obviously a very difficult tie, but for Real Madrid as well because we've been their worst enemy in the last few years.
"Since the arrival of Jose Mourinho they have a team which is more experienced than in the past. They have a team that can make a difference at any time," he said. "We know one of their players very well: Karim Benzema."