Madrid – Jose Mourinho eased up on criticising his Real Madrid squad on Monday and singled himself out for blame for their poor start to the season.
The nine-times European champions host Manchester City in their opening Champions League Group D game on Tuesday, with the fallout from his damning assessment of the team's performance in losing 1-0 at Sevilla on Saturday still causing waves.
“I am responsible for this miserable start to the season,” Mourinho told a news conference, referring to their haul of only four points from their opening four games in La Liga.
“I haven't been able to create a group who are committed. I haven't been able to make football the priority in the players lives. Now I have to try and get the team back to the way they were last season.
“There is no doubt who is responsible. In my teams, if we win, we all win. If we lose, I am responsible.”
Mourinho's outburst on Saturday drew some stinging assessments from commentators in the local media.
A column on the former Chelsea and Inter Milan boss in sports daily Marca on Monday was headed “The coach who is never to blame,” while daily El Pais suggested Mourinho was preparing the ground for a possible exit.
The Portuguese coach accused his players of lacking commitment and focus on Saturday and said “I am worried that I don't have a team” after seeing them slip eight points behind leaders and arch-rivals Barcelona.
He took a more positive outlook on Real's prospects against the English champions, turning round his much-talked about comment, and said the relationship with his players could not be better.
“It's my belief I will have a team tomorrow,” he said.
“It will be compact and everyone will want to work for each other. Perhaps we will lack a little confidence and self-belief, because it isn't easy to play against a team like City after you have played an awful game.
“I could be wrong, but I think we will be on top form.”
Having won the King's Cup in his first year and the Spanish league last season, the over-riding objective for Mourinho at the helm of the world's richest club by revenue is now success in the Champions League.
They reached the semi-finals only to lose to Bayern Munich on penalties last year, but face a tough opener on the road to a possible tenth European crown against City.
“Manchester City are genuine title contenders, from my point of view,” he said. – Reuters