|''A pleasure to play a game like this''
José Mourinho fielded questions from the Italian and international press in his pre-match news briefing ahead of Tuesday night's UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg against Barcelona.
This is what the Inter coach had to say:
Is Inter-Barcelona like a final?
"I don't like talking about an early final. It's a semi-final. Who wins, plays a final. The final is in Madrid. The final won't be Inter-Barcelona. It will be Inter or Barcelona. Lyon and Bayern deserve respect because like us and Barcelona they are in the semi-finals. They are quality teams and they have a fifty percent chance of winning the Champions. They are teams with history. It's the first semi-final for Lyon but they have reached the quarter-finals three or four times. They have eliminated Real Madrid and another team from France, which is never easy against a team from the same championship. Bayern have one of the best coaches in the world. They have quality and a rich history in the Champions. So we can't say it's an early final tomorrow. We have respect for the others, so there is no early final."
Is playing the first match at home a disadvantage?
"When I won the Champions it was the same story. With Manchester United we had first game at home. With Lyon and Deportivo the first match at home. And then with Chelsea in semi-final. Only with Barcelona we played the first match away. At Inter, it's the same story with Chelsea, CSKA and Barcelona at home. It's never been an easy road to the final."
How many hours of video of Barcelona have you seen in the last six months?
"Zero minutes in the last four and a half months. In the last two weeks I have seen Inter-Barça twice, Barça-Inter twice. I have seen them against Real Madrid, against Arsenal in London. Just normal work."
What are your impressions of Puyol?
"I think he's the same player who worked with me ten years ago. He seems like a 21-year-old, not a 31-year-old. He has the same passion and enthusiasm. He knows what I mean. Football hasn't changed him."
In the last few weeks Barcelona have changed the position of Messi. Do you think it's harder to stop him in this position?
"First of all we will see where he plays tomorrow. He can play on the right, on the left, at centre-forward like in Madrid, and behind Ibra like against Arsenal. Tomorrow we will see. He's an important player, but for me football isn't about man-marking. It's not my culture, so for this reason it won't be one against Messi and ten against ten; it will be eleven against eleven, but of course he deserves special attention because he is special."
Are Barcelona favourites to win?
"Against us in the group stages Barca showed great superiority. They deserved to win and we didn't have the capacity to respond to their superiority. That was in November. They are as good as they were in November, but we are much better than we were in November. I accept this kind of analysis, I'm not offended by it, but I think it's 50-50."
Real Madrid don't want Barcelona to reach the final in their stadium because of the rivalry between the two clubs...
"I think Real Madrid are too big to be unhappy with the non-success of the others. It should be happy with its success, not the problems of the others. I don't think it's a drama for Real Madrid. They should worry about their success and their future. They will be disappointed about not playing this final, but it's the same for me when my team doesn't achieve the success I want. I want to win, and I think it's the same thing for Real Madrid."
Many people think you will be Real Madrid coach next year?
"I am the coach of Inter. I have a contract with Inter. Real Madrid have a coach, a good coach. I can't say anything. The world of football is full of truths, half-truths, lies, speculation. I have to play the league, the cup, the Champions League. I have a decisive match every three days. I'm too worried about the future of Inter to think about other things. I have to stay calm and work well."
In which position will Sneijder play?
"This is a one-million dollar question... For Barcelona, will Maxwell or Abidal play? Alvez left-back or Alves like he played in Madrid, further up? Milito or Puyol? Keita on the right or Keita on the left? I would really like to have the answers to these questions. But unfortunately I don't think Guardiola will reply to these questions in his press conference."
Can the absence of Iniesta for Barcelona be compared to the absence of Essien for Chelsea?
"How long has Iniesta been out? I don't think Barcelona will be crying about the absence of one player. I remember the game in Barcelona. Messi and Ibra didn't play but they played an extraordinary game."
In what shape are Inter?
"Inter are in a position where 99% of the teams in Europe wanted to be. Physically, it's a team that has played seventy games. It's different from a team that has played forty. All four semi-finalists are playing to win their championship. We're all the same with the same problems to resolve."
How has this season been for you?
"It has been a spectacular season for us. We still have to wait until the end to see if I am satisfied with this spectacular season or not. In my career there have been three or four 'almosts', but my career is full of facts so I will try to win until the last minute of the season. We can finish with three, two or zero titles, but the difference is always details."
Are Barcelona the strongest team in the world?
"We will see. The strongest team is the team that wins this competition, the most prestigious competition in the world. We have to wait and see."
Everybody in England is very excited about this game, which is seen as worthy as a final.
"We beat Chelsea. Barcelona beat Arsenal. Two English teams are out of the competition, so this game attracts a lot of attention for the strength and quality of these two teams. I hope everybody can answer positively to the expectations all around the world. I can imagine that tomorrow the world will be around the TV watching this game."
What have Inter improved?
"Physically, we're the same. Obviously it's a more compact team tactically. The mentality of the players in the Champions League is different. The psychological condition is completely different. It's one thing to enter a competition like we did this year, with the pressure of a team that wasn't winning away, and then we reached the moment when we are a team with five consecutive victories. We should have the great pleasure of playing a Champions League semi-final, not fear. We deserve to be in the semi-final and now we want to get to the final."
Will tomorrow's game be different from the ones in the group stages?
"With Barcelona we played a good game at home. In the first ten minutes and the last ten Barcelona were superior, but in the other seventy it was a balanced game. If we give them more ball possession in tomorrow's game, we have already lost. As for the game in Barcelona for fifteen minutes we weren't on the pitch. We lost the game immediately there. I prefer to analyse that game and understand what we did and what we didn't do."