There is a saying: go big or go home. Well, there is nothing bigger than Barcelona and, if we dont manage to get through them over these two legs, Inter will most definitely be going home. Of course, they also say it is an achievement to get this far into the competition - the semifinals are nothing to sneeze at. Well, from this fan's point of view, it doesn't actually feel that way. What it feels like is having glory snatched from your grasp at the last possible moment - just when you could almost feel it in your hands. Barcelona is the best team in Europe, and for all I know, the world. They always win everything all the time. They want a player, all they have to do is snap their fingers and he appears magically at their door (who would say no to a Barcelona tap up?). They are the like Gamera - a giant beast that smashes their way through the football world and everyone loves them (lets be real here, liking Barcelona is like saying you like puppies or kittens - everyone likes puppies and kittens, where is the challenge in that).
They are the favorites to win this semifinal - if not tomorrow, then at Camp Nou for sure. Except... Except they just might not be. As slim a hope as it may be, I intend to cling to it until the last whistle of the last game. I dont care if they have Messi and Ibra and Xavi and all of them can walk on water and fart rainbows - there is still a chance that we can win. And that is what we need to focus on.
What: Inter v Barcelona
Where: San Siro, Milan
When: Tuesday, April 20, 8:45pm local time (11:45am pacific, 2:45pm eastern)
How to Watch: Live and in HD on Fox Sports Channel (Fox Soccer Channel is showing it a few hours later), ppv at UEFA.com, or find a stream: MyP2P, Rojadirecta, Ustream, and ATDHE.net
I will be live blogging this tomorrow. Join me here 15 minutes before the game.
Somehow, Inter have been so incredibly lucky as to draw Barcelona twice in the same competition. To get past them once (barely) only to have to do it all over again with an even less of a margin for error is almost more than I can take. Sisyphus springs to mind - drawing Barcelona for the semifinals feels like a punishment for daring to think little ol' Inter could actually go to the finals. (is my bitter showing?)
Well, as I was saying, as this is the second time we meet Barcelona in the CL this season, we have a little history to talk about. When they came to the San Siro way back for Matchday 1, we were just beginning our little experiment and were quite happy (at least I was) with the 0-0 draw. True, we didn't manage to get a goal, but most importantly, neither did they. We actually managed to stop the unstoppable. Hooray.
Er, lets see... they have the best forwards in the world (one of which is dead to me now), the best midfielders (one of which is injured), a pretty decent defense (even if one is the anti-HAB), a world-class keeper (who is entirely HAB worthy), and the bestest coach you are ever going to meet (who, coincidentally, is also super hot). They are going to play fast, flowing football with inch-perfect passing and 90% possession. It doesn't really matter what formation they use because even if Messi played keeper, he would probably find a way to score from there.
16-hour bus ride - tee hee.
Really, the only downside to this whole ball of wonder and joy is that they have been reduced to taking the bus. Yep, that volcano in Iceland has grounded the team so they are taking the scenic route. Poor babies.
If you want more Barcelona, I suggest you check out their offside board. Of course, there is also the Champions League page, and the Offside mainpage. This place is swarming with UCL previews. As for me, I dont follow La Liga or Barcelona - I dont even know all the names of the players on their team. I am sure I could probably do some research and post it here and stuff, but if someone over there will do that all for me - then good for them and someone pour me another glass of wine (really, my glass is empty - I hate that).
Its all about you, now, boys.
Mourinho has called up 19 players:
Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar, Orlandoni, Belec.
Defenders: Cordoba, Zanetti, Lucio, Maicon, Materazzi, Samuel, Chivu.
Midfielders: Stankovic, Thiago Motta, Sneijder, Muntari, Cambiasso.
Strikers: Eto'o, Milito, Pandev, Balotelli.
Toldo and Santon are still injured. Santon is out for the rest of the season for sure, Toldo I am not so sure about. Quaresma and Mariga have been left out again - I wonder what is going on with that, they must be very naughty indeed. No one is suspended for this game, but really worryingly, Samuel, Maicon, Zanetti, Stanković are all out for the next leg if they get booked. That is a third of our starting lineup - Yikes.
Word is, Mourinho is going to spring something different on Barcelona: the 4-1-4-1. I think many of you will remember it from the Fiorentina Coppa return leg. We won that game 0-1, and, while that scoreline would suit everyone just wonderfully in Milan, Fiore is no Barcelona (no offense, I love you guys, but you know it is true).
In any event, that particular type of insanity may look like this (or so says La Gazzetta):
And it is all I can do to stop myself from melodramatically shouting "NOOOOOOO!!!" while a fall to my knees when I see Cordoba up there as a rightback.
But Mou must know something, right? Right.
Still, I think I would rather have Zanetti behind Maicon and Chivu on the left, if he is match-fit that is (you know, we really should have bought a leftback last winter). As for the rest, Mou was quite cagey at the presser today, all he would say about the actual tactics of the game was:
"...for me football isn't about man-marking. It's not my culture, so for this reason it won't be one against Messi and ten against ten; it will be eleven against eleven, but of course he deserves special attention because he is special."
So there you go. He also pointed out that the team Barcelona comes to play tomorrow is not the same as the one they came to play last September:
"Physically, we're the same. Obviously it's a more compact team tactically. The mentality of the players in the Champions League is different. The psychological condition is completely different. It's one thing to enter a competition like we did this year, with the pressure of a team that wasn't winning away, and then we reached the moment when we are a team with five consecutive victories. We should have the great pleasure of playing a Champions League semi-final, not fear. We deserve to be in the semi-final and now we want to get to the final.
With Barcelona we played a good game at home. In the first ten minutes and the last ten Barcelona were superior, but in the other seventy it was a balanced game. If we give them more ball possession in tomorrow's game, we have already lost. As for the game in Barcelona for fifteen minutes we weren't on the pitch. We lost the game immediately there. I prefer to analyse that game and understand what we did and what we didn't do."
Alright. Mou will be using that game at Camp Nou as a teaching moment. And really, that is the best possible outcome for a game like that - to study it and use it as a blueprint of what not to do. Lemonade from lemons.
Please dont injure yourself before the match!
Taking a stroll around the various previews for this game (at ESPN, Goal.com, BBC), you come away with the general feeling that although Barcelona are still the favorites to win this game, it will not be a shoe-in. We will cause them trouble (I hope), and may just pull out a shock win. That is, Inter scoring against Barcelona is not outside the realm of possibility, but it is unlikely.
I, on the other hand, will take a different approach. We are totally going to win this tie. Not only that, but we are going to score at Camp Nou and go through. Dont ask me how, I just know that we will. And that is the only way we have a chance of getting through these next two matchdays: stubborn will, blind faith, and sheer delusion. Well, maybe it is not as bad as all that. Inter does have the best defensive and offensive record in the league (even if we are second [shudder] in the league). We haven't lost at home in ages and in fact no one has even scored on us at the San Siro for 2 months, we have arguably one of the best coaches around, and a team full of some pretty talented people.
As Homer Simpson just said "Faith is what you have in things that dont exist, your awesomeness is real."
Inter, your awesomeness is real.
Oh ya, I almost forgot: drama drama drama - Eto'o, Ibra, Maxwell, Thiago Motta - Milito brothers pitted against each other. There, I think that is everything.