Step one: “I know the number of penalties they get at home. I know how often they play against 10 men.”
Step two: “It’s a bit surprising, especially with Eidur [Gudjohnsen]. Eidur played in English football all his life and three months later he gets that penalty.”
With the long-term injury to Samuel Eto’o, it’s obvious that Mourinho is out to rattle Gudjohnsen’s mind. Mourinho knows that Gudjohnsen is Barcelona’s linchpin in attack, and by drawing attention to the dive against Recreativo de Huelvo (Phil Ball’s second favorite team), he not only plants a seed in the Icelandic’s mind, but he also makes the referee aware to watch out for Barcelona’s antics.
By making the reference, does Mourinho in fact influence the referee before the match has even kicked off? Will the referee be less likely to call a penalty whether it’s a valid foul in the box or not because he’s aware — in the back of his mind — that Barca are awarded more penalty kicks than most teams (according to Mourinho).
I have to say that Mourinho is a genius, a modern day manager who knows that humans are not robots and can be influenced either consciously or subconsciously. We’ve seen how Alex Ferguson has done it too (most famously in the year that Newcastle almost won the title and manager Kevin Keegan cracked under the pressure).
However, Frank Rijkaard also plays the game of mind tricks well. His response to the comments made by Mourinho? “It’s a poor man’s mind in general.”
At the end of the day, what Mourinho is doing in these press conferences is completely legal. As far as I know, there is no UEFA rule preventing him from insinuating these opinions. The question is: Will it have an effect on the outcome of the match at the Nou Camp? We’ll find out later today.