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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 April, 2005, 18:24 GMT 19:24 UK
Tactical masters fight for glory
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

Jose Mourinho and Rafael Benitez won the biggest prizes in Europe last season - now they are fighting for a place in the Champions League final in Istanbul.

Rafael Benitez and Jose Mourinho

Chelsea and Liverpool meet in an all-Premiership semi-final, and both managers know what it takes to claim the top prizes.

Mourinho won the Champions League with Porto while Benitez was a Uefa Cup winner with Valencia.

And it is a sign of their success in adapting to new surroundings that they are now on the brink of glory in Europe's elite competition.

After their successes last season, they decided to seek pastures new, with Mourinho leaving Porto immediately after their win against Monaco to join Chelsea and Benitez agreeing to replace Gerard Houllier at Liverpool.

Mourinho has already won his first English trophy, claiming the Carling Cup at the expense of Benitez's Liverpool.

Now two acknowledged tactical masters lock horns again - but what drives these meticulous men?

MEDIOCRE PLAYING CAREERS

RAFAEL BENITEZ:
Benitez was actually on Real Madrid's books as a player. He joined as a youngster and stayed seven years without getting a first-team game.

He moved to third division side Parla, helping them to promotion in 1983. After joining Segunda B side Linares, he spent a lengthy spell on the sidelines before returning to Real as a coach in 1986.

JOSE MOURINHO:
A reserve team defender or midfielder, he never played professionally, but football was in his blood as the son of famous Portugal goalkeeper Felix Mourinho.

He was in the shadow squad when his father was coach at unfashionable Portuguese First Division side Rio Ave, where as a teenager he acted as unofficial scout.

Mourinho completed a Uefa coaching course in 1987 and then took low-profile coaching positions at Portuguese clubs Estrela Amadora and Vitoria Setubal as he started his rise to the top.

COACHING CREDENTIALS

RAFAEL BENITEZ:
Benitez worked at Real Madrid from 1989 to 1995, winning the league with the youth and B teams before assisting manager Vicente del Bosque.

He took his first top job in charge of Real Vallodolid, but was sacked after only 23 games with the team bottom of the league. He then only won one game out of nine at Osasuna before showing his true potential at Extremedura in 1997.

Rafael Benitez
Benitez won the Uefa Cup at Valencia

He won the second division title at his first attempt, but they were relegated after only one season.

Benitez then took a sabbatical to study coaching methods before leading Tenerife to the second division crown in 2001.

He was so impressive that he was named as the surprise successor to Hector Cuper at Valencia.

Valencia's fans were unimpressed with the appointment, but he silenced the doubters with the club's first La Liga title in 31 years.

He repeated the feat in 2004 - and added the Uefa Cup for good measure to attract Liverpool's attention.

JOSE MOURINHO:
Mourinho's mentor was Sir Bobby Robson - accepting a job as his translator in 1992 before taking on the role of assistant coach.

He was at Porto with Robson between 1994 and 1996, winning two titles before joining him at Barcelona two years later, helping him win the European Cup Winners' Cup.

Jose Mourinho and Sir Bobby Robson
Mourinho was guided by mentor Robson

Mourinho remained at the Nou Camp under Louis van Gaal, before taking over as Benfica coach in 2000 - lasting only nine games before resigning because of boardroom problems.

He then guided little-known Uniao de Leiria to the top five of the Portuguese league before taking over at Porto in January 2002.

In his first full season in charge he delivered the league, cup and Uefa Cup, beating Celtic in the final.

The next season it was Champions League glory - and he was on the road to Chelsea.

TOP TACTICS?

RAFAEL BENITEZ:
Benitez demands a high-tempo attacking style that has been welcomed by Liverpool fans - it was a method that clinched his appointment.

When consulted about potential successors to Houllier, Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen and Jamie Carragher all name-checked Valencia as the best team they had played in years.

He is prepared to rotate his squad, sometimes using one man up front, but the occasional bizarre team selection - namely in the defeat at Burnley in the FA Cup - threatened to undermine his first season.

But plotting Champions League successes against Bayer Leverkusen and, more spectacularly, Juventus have confirmed the belief inside Anfield that he is the man to restore the glory days.

JOSE MOURINHO:
Mourinho's teams are built around solid defence, with Porto employing a counter-attacking style.

Chelsea are miserly in defence, but Mourinho is more than happy to employ flair, as he does when he has both Damien Duff and Arjen Robben fit and firing.

Not big on rotation, he announced: "I hate big squads. I want 21 outfield players plus goalkeepers. I work with small squads for very specific work."

First priority is not to concede - and Chelsea rarely concede.

PERSONALITY

RAFAEL BENITEZ:
Smiling, charming Spaniard who once described himself as a "loner with a laptop" because of the time he spent alone master-minding tactics on his computer.

He studies tactics and plots games at 4am and is obsessive about his football. Admits he has been known to wake his wife Montse in the early hours shouting out tactics in his sleep!

Mild-mannered, but has a ruthless streak as he showed over the sale of Michael Owen and also a calculated public attack on his players after their defeats at Birmingham and Manchester City.

Steely and determined, he left Valencia in tears after becoming dissatisfied with behind-the-scenes politics.

He also expressed his dissatisfaction over the club's failure to strengthen Valencia's squad with players he recommended.

Benitez reportedly said: "I asked for a table and they bought me a lamp."

Charming - but not to be trifled with.

JOSE MOURINHO:
Outspoken, blunt, charismatic, ruthless. A breath of fresh air in the Premiership.

Has been fiercely criticised recently for his part in the retirement of referee Anders Frisk following Chelsea's Champions League game in Barcelona.

Will be back on the bench against Liverpool after serving a two-match Champions League ban.

Pursued his coaching ambitions with fierce desire, and was single-minded enough to leave Porto in the wake of their Champions League success.

Jose Mourinho won the Champions League with Porto
Mourinho has claimed Europe's highest honours

He said: "It was a wonderful story, but the story has to end."

Like Benitez, he is a devoted family man, but is consumed by seeking success at Chelsea.

Respected at all levels, Sir Alex Ferguson is an admirer and Scunthorpe manager Brian Laws said Mourinho ensured they were "treated like kings" when they visited Stamford Bridge for an FA Cup tie this season.

Mourinho even presented Laws with his meticulously-prepared scouting report on Scunthorpe.

THEIR KEY MEN

Chelsea will look to inspirational captain John Terry to remove the threat of Liverpool snatching the crucial away goal that could make all the difference.

Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard
Gerrard and Lampard's battle could decide final

And, more specifically, the battle between England pair Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard could be crucial.

Gerrard is the driving force and icon for Liverpool - now arguably above Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira and Lampard as the Premiership's finest midfield operator.

He possesses a brilliant range of passing, and will be desperate to erase the bitter memories of scoring an own goal that gave Chelsea their equaliser in the 3-2 Carling Cup win.

Lampard, however, has performed magnificently for Chelsea this season and will relish the battle.

He is also now a regular goalscorer and has flourished among the multi-million pound Chelsea imports.




VOTE RESULTS
Who will reach this year's Champions League final?
Chelsea
51%
Liverpool
49%
54631 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Vote now closed





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