The Camp Nou will be the venue when Barcelona host Inter in the second-leg of the Champions League semi-final. In Milan, Inter were able to score a fantastic 3-1 win after trailing 1-0 against the European champions. One player who has been instrumental for the Nerazzurri in Europe is Wesley Sneijder yet the Dutch playmaker might miss the return leg in Spain due to injury.
While Inter will predictably sit back to soak Barca’s pressure the absence of Sneijder cannot be underestimated because he provides so much to the Nerazzurri in terms of vision, passing, keeping possession and assisting on goals. If he does indeed miss the clash then Inter will start with a disadvantage despite their 3-1 lead. It will be hard for the Italian club to contain Barca at the Camp Nou and Lionel Messi will likely want to erase memories of the bruising first-leg defeat.
Josep Guardiola will be depending on decisive duo Xavi Hernandez and Messi to lead the line and create scoring opportunities for their teammates. The one concern for Barca is the status of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and whether he can play the full 90 minutes as he appeared lacking in fitness when the two sides met in Milan. Ibrahimovic did feature and actually scored against Xerez in la Liga but Inter are a much more dangerous team with quality strikers such as Diego Milito and former Barca hero Samuel Eto’o.
The main battles will be between Guardiola and Jose Mourinho off the pitch as their tactics and the choice of players will play a major role in the outcome of the match and consequently deciding who advances to the final to be played in Madrid. Another battle will be fought in the middle of the field with Xavi aiming to orchestrate Barca’s attacks and maintaining the tempo he desires and deems suitable to the Catalans. To counter the supreme Xavi, Mourinho will entrust his midfielders with restricting the space available for the Spaniard and the one player who will be charged with leading the midfield for Inter is Esteban Cambiasso. Winning the midfield battle will be key to the outcome of the match as Xavi’s passes usually pave the way for Barca’s attackers to score goal.
Inter’s goalkeeper Julio Cesar must return to his form or at least perform close to his best if Barca are to be deterred. The Brazilian custodian has been below par in recent matches and his drop in level will hurt Inter considering they will have to defend for a considerable portion of the match. It will be interesting to see how Mourinho will start the match and the instructions he will give to his team while the performances of both Xavi and Messi will determine to a large extent how effective Barcelona will be and whether they will overturn the deficit to play in Madrid.