- Posted by Geoff Reid
- On April 20, 2010
- 4 Comments
- Barcelona, Geoff Reid, Inter Milan, UEFA Champions League
By Geoff Reid
The first of both semi final first legs kicks off this afternoon with Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan side host Pep Guardiola and the best club side in the world from Catalonia.
Inter Milan vs Barcelona From The San Siro, Milan
This game alone is what I live for. By far the most important match of the season so far for both sides with so many smaller subplots while both clubs will be trying to set up a nice advantage for the second leg in the Camp Nou. Barcelona without question are the best club side in the world and while Messi dominates the headlines, Barcelona have many other fantastic attacking weapons at their disposal. Many have said Mourinho is the best prepared coach in world football, and while I would not go that far, this tie will be a perfect case for him to prove that if true. Inter’s form has been lacking in recent weeks in league play and have been overtaken by Roma in the Serie A standings, so you can argue Inter have always had one eye on this match tonight. One thing that may be an advantage for the home side today would be the fact that Barcelona had to travel by bus for 14 hours from Spain, all the way through the Mediterranean coast of southern France and into northern Italy to Milan because of the delay of flights over Europe due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland. Guardiola said he was just glad that Inter beat CSKA Moscow in the last round so they wouldn’t have had to take a trip to the Russian capital by bus!
The only injuries for Inter is Davide Santon (knee) and Francesco Toldo (leg) but he’s only the backup keeper these days anyway. The one concerning issue for Mourinho is if Walter Samuel, Maicon, Javier Zanetti and Dejan Stankovic all pick up a yellow card they will miss the second leg in Barcelona due to accumulation. Mourinho knows his team, it’s tried and trusted and has always been a coach that believes in his players so we should see no real surprises in his lineup. As always, the attacking should flow through Dutchman Wesley Sneijder who deserves to be the same conversation with Lionel Messi as the best player in the world. Protecting Sneijder will be his defensive midfield partner Esteban Cambiasso while being flanked by Stankovic and Goran Pandev to give the side some width. Up front as ever will be former Barcelona and Real Madrid striker Samiel Eto’o and Argentinean Diego Milito.
Barcelona only have Andres Iniesta (right thigh) ruled out while club captain Carles Puyol will miss the second leg due to suspension if he picks up a yellow card. Former Inter striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned this past weekend in their scoreless draw against Espanyol while Eric Abidal also recovered from a groin tear. While Iniesta will be a big loss, Guardiola has many other options in attack that will revolve around Messi. Expect Dani Alves to join in the attack whenever possible to provide width from the flank, Xavi Hernandez to hold the midfield together and pull the strings in the middle. With Iniesta out, expect Sergio Busquets to take his place alongside Xavi with Ibrahimovic up front with Messi. Youngsters Bojan Krkic and Pedro Rodriguez may also get the nod at some point. Frenchman Theirry Henry is also an option from the bench.
Prediction: Inter Milan 1-1 Barcelona. Mourinho’s been known to be a conservative coach, especially in first legs and I expect the Black and Blue to be cautious in this first leg even at home. Guardiola’s style is almost opposite in that he wants Barcelona to play open, attractive football anywhere they go and they have snatched away goals all through the knockout phase so far so this should be no different. The second leg should be set up very nicely after this match.
Editor’s Note: Geoff Reid appears on WVHooligan each week. Feel free to leave him your thoughts and comments below.