On Wednesday night Inter Milan take on reigning European champions Barcelona in what is surely the standout fixture in the opening round of the Champions League. To add some extra spice to the occasion Inter Milan welcome Zlatan Ibrahimovic back to the Giuseppe Meazza after his mega-money switch to Barcelona over the summer in a deal which saw fellow striker Samuel Eto’o move in the opposite direction.
Both Ibra and Eto’o have already found their feet at their new clubs. Ibra has scored twice in La Liga as well as turning provider for a Lionel Messi goal in the Spanish Super Cup final. Eto’o won Inter a penalty in the Milan derby and has himself found the net twice, once from the penalty spot and once from open play, and looks to have settled in well in his new surroundings.
The pressure will be on both players to score against their former employers. In all honesty I expect the Inter fans to be fairly welcoming to Zlatan, he may have jumped ship but the Nerazzurri came out of the deal with a big fee (somewhere in the region of €69million) and Eto’o.
“I’ll do everything to score because I play for Barca now,” Ibrahimovic said.
“I don’t know what to expect from the fans but I will go there and do my best and hope we win.
“People know my quality and I know my quality and for me it’s an obligation to win every match I play.”
Eto’o scored many important goals for Barca in his time at the Nou Camp but his relationship with the club and their supporters was perhaps not as rosy as it could have been. Despite his excellent performances for the Catalan side the Cameroonian was frequently linked with a switch away from Barca and he is eager to show Barca just what they let go.
“The game against Barcelona motivates me, obviously,” said Eto’o in an interview with Sky Italia.
“But it also motivates the rest of the team too.
“Up until now I had not thought about playing them, but now I am and that is what I am focusing on.
“I really want to play in the game, but I do not think it will be the most important game of the season because I want to play in many important games, not just this one.”
Inter fell in the first knock out round last season after being beaten 2-0 by eventual finalists Manchester United. The pressure is on boss Jose Mourinho to improve on that performance this season and an opening group fixture against champions Barcelona represents an excellent chance for Mourinho to prove his side’s worth. For Barca they’ll be eager to kick off their defence of the title with a win and I’m expecting a hard fought encounter between two of Europe’s most talented sides.