San Siro, Milan
Italy – April 20, 2010
Jose Mourinho loves attention. He has always stated his desire to create history. At Porto, it was back to back European titles. At Chelsea, he became the first manager in half a century to win the league title. At Inter, he has the perfect opportunity to do the same, if he can lead Inter to the European glory for which they have waited since 1965. Historically, Inter have underachieved in Europe; under Mourinho, Inter reached the semi-final stage for the first time in seven years. Standing between Jose and history is FC Barcelona, the greatest football team in this generation and possibly one of the best ever in history.
When Inter takes on Barcelona today, the pundits will be betting on the winner to lift the big-eared trophy on May 22nd. Such is the hype and attention surrounding this game, that the other semi-final has been reduced to a mere footnote in many publications.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
The two teams had faced each other in the group stages itself, in what was billed as the ‘Group of Death’. Inter drew 0-0 at San Siro, while the game at Nou Camp produced a comprehensive 2-0 win for a Barcelona team which was missing Messi and Ibrahimovic.
Since that game, Inter have slowly improved their performances in Champions League, demonstrating a never before seen swagger against Chelsea. Barcelona have scaled stratospheric heights in football, blowing away anything and everything in their path.
Recent Form: WWDWWW
Recent CL Form: WWWWWL
Inter made hard work of dispatching 10-man Juventus on Friday, in the second edition of Derby d’Italia. With Roma stealing a march on the Scudetto race, Inter will be hoping to do well in this game to boost their chances of a big trophy.
Mourinho has also defied his reputation for being cautious and defensive. Barring Christian Chivu, who is doubtful, Jose Mourinho has all his first team players available. There are rumours of Maicon being pushed to midfield, to take advantage of the weaker left side of Barcelona.
Players to watch out for: Mario Balotelli – His unpredictable nature might be the surprise element, which Mourinho could unleash early in the second half.
Predicted Starting XI:
Cesar – Zanetti – Lucio- Samuel- Chivu – Maicon – Cambiasso – Motta –Stankovic- Eto’o- Milito
Recent Form: DWWWWD
Recent CL Form: WDWDWW
Barcelona were held to a goalless draw by Espanyol, which cut down their lead on Real Madrid to a solitary point, paving the way for a mouth watering finish to the La Liga. They now have to keep an idea on both the domestic and European fixtures, knowing well that they have to keep winning to secure a double.
The volcanic eruption in Iceland disrupted FC Barcelona’s travel plans, forcing the team to take a fourteen hour bus journey. With Inter enjoying an additional day of rest and no travel hassles to deal with, having played their league game on Friday, this might prove to be the crucial difference between two teams.
Andreas Iniesta is out of both legs, while Eric Abidal will not travel to San Siro. Ibrahimovic is a doubt, as he has not completely recovered from his muscle problem.
Predicted line up: Valdes – Alves – Pique- Puyol – Maxwell – Yaya – Xavi – Keita – Pedro – Krkic – Messi
Players to watch out for: Lionel Messi – He hasn’t scored in the last two games, so maybe is due a goal or two.
While Barcelona are undoubtedly the better side, the exhaustion from the long journey, combined with Inter’s home advantage, will nullify that.
Inter 1-1 Barcelona