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Mourinho downplays Madrid's Lyon jinx

Real Madrid will be looking to end its jinx against Lyon in European competition on Wednesday and reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the first time since 2004

AP, Tuesday 15 Mar 2011
Real Madrid
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Madrid drew 1-1 in the first leg with Karim Benzema providing the away goal advantage ahead of the match at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, where the teams have drawn in all three previous meetings _ including last year when the French club knocked the nine-time champions out at the same stage.

Juventus, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, AS Roma, Liverpool and Lyon have all sent Madrid out since it's last two-legged triumph in the round of 16 _ against Bayern seven years ago. Miralem Pjanic's second-half goal earned the French club a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu last year to go through 2-1 on aggregate.

"Yes, this run of bad results works against Real Madrid.

But the game will be open and Madrid has a small advantage," Madrid coach Jose Mourinho said Tuesday. "But if we don't get through this year it's not a big problem.

Big problems are what is happening in Japan right now." Mourinho said he would make a decision on Cristiano Ronaldo's availability after training later Tuesday as Madrid looks for its first victory over Lyon in seven Champions League matches. The Portugal forward, who leads the team with 37 goals in all competitions, has missed two league games with a leg injury.

"It's the first time that Lyon plays its second match here without an advantage. At this point we're qualified and they have to play a big game," Mourinho said. "We will play very defensively. We'll stack the back and hope (goalkeeper Iker) Casillas makes a lot of stops so if it ends 0-0 we're through."

ourinho's future at Madrid could depend on the result as the Portuguese coach was hired to end Madrid's drought in the competition.

So far, Mourinho's first season has been successful. He has led the team to the Copa del Rey final and into second place in the league, five points behind Barcelona.
But Madrid yearns for European glory and another early exit may leave even the brash Mourinho in trouble.

"Madrid is the champion of champions but obviously they need to win it again. Mourinho is one of three coaches to have won Champions League twice with different clubs so if I don't win another I'll still go down in the competition's history. But I still want to win another," said Mourinho, who is vying to become the first to win the European Cup with three different teams following title runs with FC Porto and Inter Milan. "(But) everybody wants to play, nobody is afraid. There's no special pressure for it."

Madrid, which as won all 21 games played at the Bernabeu this season and has advanced 19 of the 20 times it has drawn away in the first leg of UEFA competitions, also has an inform Benzema to count on.

The France striker is finally showing why Madrid paid ¤35 million ($49 million) for him from Lyon, and he has scored 19 goals in all competitions with five in Europe.

"He's changed, it's true. But Karim himself is the main reason for it, as well as the other players and myself," Mourinho said of Benzema, who has been helped by Madrid official and former France great Zinedine Zidane. "I also think the psychological work that Zizou has done with him has been very important." Mourinho also has Emmanuel Adebayor to choose from in attack in the absence of injured Brazil playmaker Kaka and Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain.

Lyon can count on Argentina striker Lisandro Lopez, who has scored four times in two games since returning from injury. Left back Aly Cissokho, who is still recovering from a thigh injury, traveled with the team and has a good chance to start in place of Thimothee Kolodziejczak, while Brazilian midfielder Michel Bastos is suspended.

Midfielder Yoann Gourcuff is available despite a bruised toe.

Lyon is currently enjoying its best form all season and moved within four points of French league leader Lille with a 2-0 win at Sochaux last weekend.

"Everyone is sharing the same positive state of mind at the moment," France midfielder Jeremy Toulalan said.

"(But) even if we did it last season, Real Madrid has improved defensively. Last year, their central defense was left abandoned." ___ AP Sports Writer Samuel Petrequin in Paris contributed to this report.

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