La Liga leaders Barcelona will travel to Milan to take on Inter in the highly anticipated clash between two of the best teams left in the European competitions. The current champions Barca rely heavily on midfield schemer Xavi Hernandez and superstar Lionel Messi while Inter will be attempting to reach the final in Madrid to win their third title in the top European event.
The Nerazzurri are currently second in Serie A behind Roma but the two clubs are only separated by a single point. Inter will be depending on their attacking line composed of Diego Milito and Samuel Eto’o as well as playmaker Wesley Sneijder to threaten the Barca goal. However, the key to Inter’s success in this tie will be the performance of the defensive line composed of Brazilian duo Maicon and Lucio along with Argentine Walter Samuel and the returning Romanian left-back Cristian Chivu. Lucio and Samuel in particular will be responsible for keeping in check former Inter star Zalatan Ibrahimovic and the extremely talented Messi.
Inter’s Esteban Cambiasso will be asked to help the midfield contain the talented Xavi who is one of the best at creating scoring opportunities, sending players towards goal with incisive passing and launching probing balls towards the penalty area of Barca’s opponents. Messi might get the majority of the plaudits but Xavi is the key architect behind most of Barca’s attacks as he showed time and again during El Clasico when he assisted on both goals scored by the Catalans.
Finally, Josep Guardiola will be facing Inter boss Jose Mourinho who is perhaps as crucial as the players for the Nerazzurri considering his tactics and motivational skills are highly regarded. Mourinho was credited with the two victories over former club Chelsea and was then praised for his strategy against CSKA Moscow. It remains to be seen if Mourinho can conjure something to contain the talented Messi and halt the progress of the Catalan club.
While this might be overlooked by many, it is important to note Mourinho assisted Bobby Robson when the Englishman was the coach at Barcelona. Mourinho might downplay this fact but deep inside such a connection drives the Portuguese just as witnessed during the clash between Inter and his former club Chelsea. For Mourinho to emerge victorious it will be quite difficult but it starts with containing Messi and restricting the passing options of Xavi.
With Inter challenging on three fronts this tie might demand and exhaust the squad’s energy resulting in the loss of Serie A and Coppa Italia. As for Barca, the Catalans are a more talented team and if they can achieve a beneficial result in Milan such as a win, a draw or even a narrow defeat other than by the score of 1-0 for Inter, then they have a great opportunity of sealing the tie at the Camp Nou.