EXCLUSIVE: Michael Essien upbeat over Real Madrid’s European hopes
Michael Essien is adamant that Real Madrid have the desire and pedigree to once again lift the Champions League trophy this term
Michael Essien is adamant that Real Madrid have the desire and pedigree to once again lift the Champions League trophy ahead of Wednesday’s clash with Galatasaray.
Los Blancos lie 13 points behind rivals Barcelona and look set to lose their La Liga crown, however impressive European displays this campaign have raised hopes of an elusive 10th Champions League title at the Bernabeu.
“The squad is always ready for the big games and this is no different,” Essien told The Sport Review.
“We have been playing well recently, and more importantly scoring goals, and we hope to keep it that way against Galatasaray.
“They are an experienced side with Champions League winners in their side so they will pose problems but as long as we stick to our game-plan, I am confident we can go through.”
Real Madrid’s dedicated but demanding fans are desperate for Champions League success having not come close to re-lifting the prestigious trophy since their last triumph in 2002.
“Of course we do understand the desire of the fans to win la decima Champions League trophy. It not only the fans what want this 10th Champions League trophy, the players, the management and the whole club want to win.
“The coach wants a third one, I want my second one [back to back], those who haven’t won it before want to taste it for the first time and so on.
“Real Madrid wants to be at the top and winning the Champions League is one way of being at the top.”
Essien says he relished the opportunity to head out on loan to Madrid from Chelsea join forces once again with ex-Blues manager Jose Mourinho.
“It’s been really good and I have enjoyed it very much,” he added. “I wasn’t expecting to be here when the season started so to be here was a surprise but I am having a good time and hopefully there will be a trophy or two at the end of the season, which will be the icing on the cake.”
Galatasaray have a trio of former Mourinho players on their books; Didier Drogba, Wesley Sneijder and Hamit Altintop.
And Essien knows the tie will be an emotional test for all involved. “He [Mourinho] makes us all feel special by instilling belief in us all the time.
“He lets you believe in your own ability and as a player when the coach makes you feel good [and] you will give everything for him.
“He tells you off when he feels you are wrong and praises you when you do well. Sir Alex [Ferguson] has been doing that with all his young players for years and that what Jose does very well too.”
But the Ghanaian believes that former connections will be irrelevant considering the magnitude of the contest.
“He [Mourinho] is always close to his players but that should make no difference coming up against any of his ex-players,” he added.
“It’s like meeting an ex-girlfriend whom you are still on good terms with – you talk about the good old times and that’s it. We are all good friends and that will always be the case.
“This will be no different and when we cross the white line it’s business as usual.”
Real Madrid v Galatasary: Pre-match facts
• Real Madrid have won two and drawn two games in the Champions League at home this term and overall have won 13 and lost just one of 16 European home outings during Mourinho’s three campaigns in charge.
• Mourinho has a 100 per cent record in Champions League quarter-finals having won at this stage with Porto (2004), Chelsea (2005, 2007), Inter Milan (2010) and his present club in 2011 and 2012.
• Galatasaray last visited Spain’s capital for a 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid in the 2009-10 Uefa Cup round of 32, a tie they eventually lost 3-2 on aggregate.
• Mourinho worked with Drogba at Chelsea from 2004 to 2007 and together they won Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006. Drogba played alongside Ricardo Carvalho and Essien at Stamford Bridge.