Real Madrid were able to overcome a nervy beginning and sloppy ending to cruise past CSKA Moscow 4-1 at the Bernabeu, securing a well-deserved place in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Los blancos vanquished CSKA 5-2 on aggregate and have to be considered one of the most dangerous and unwanted match-ups ahead of tomorrow's quarterfinal draw. Interestingly, (seriously, is anything about Mourinho uninteresting? He can make James Bond seem boring...) Jose Mourinho said after yesterday's match that he would love for Madrid to face his old club Chelsea in the finals, or at any other stage of the tournament. Xabi Alonso echoed the boss, saying he'd also relish the chance to return to England and face the Blues. Those weren't the only interesting things said in the aftermath of yesterday's match, so join me after the jump for more analysis and commentary.
Kaka, always a subject of intense debate and scrutiny on Managing Madrid, had an excellent performance yesterday and had an undeniable influence on the outcome of the match. His beautiful cross to Gonzalo Higuain got Madrid rolling in stylish manner, allowing them to relax and control the tempo of the match. The Brazilian midfielder is definitely showing flashes of his Milan-era acceleration and is making great decisions with the ball. Perhaps most encouraging was the tenacious workrate exhibited by Kaka. It appears as if his body and mind (confidence wise) are completely in-sync at the moment. Mourinho singled out Kaka's effort for praise and said the following, according to Goal.com:
Kaka had his best games in Milan, but he has never worked harder than he is now. He was spectacular. He puts in a fantastic shift for the team and it's not surprising he has no strength left after 75 minutes
I encourage everyone to read Ben Hayward's entire Goal.com piece because it contains fascinating details about Kaka's journey over the previous few years, including the tremendous level of rehabilitation and toil he underwent to get back on the pitch after the World Cup in 2010.
Besides effusive praise for Kaka, Mourinho went on to characterize yesterday's performance in the following even-handed manner:
We played a mature match. It wasn't anything out of this world...We're in the quarterfinals, which is the most important thing.
Mourinho emphasized (and rightfully so) his pleasure with his side's cohesiveness, stating:
The most important thing isn't always to score but to play as a team and be a collective
I think the Portuguese maestro hit exactly the right notes in his post-match commentary and it's a great sign that the words 'maturity' and 'collective' were deliberately chosen to describe yesterday's performance. You can see that this team has grown enormously as a unit over the past year and I think a certainly level of maturity is a major factor in that growth. You never got a sense of panic or complacency from the squad and that allowed them to perform with their increasingly common ruthless efficiency.
Finally, even in the afterglow of a hard-won Champions League knock-out stage tie, Mourinho stressed that the club's main priority was winning la Liga, saying the following of the club's desire for their Primera division title in four years:
The Liga is the most important title for the self-esteem of the club, even though winning the Champions League is like El Dorado
Again, I love his psychology and the instant shift to focusing on the league and a touch match against Malaga this weekend.
All in all, outside of Xabi's suspension for the first leg of the quarterfinals, I think yesterday was a perfect result and everyone involved seems to be exhibiting incredible focus, resolve and confidence.
What do you think, Madridistas?