Fate offers final word to 'The Translator'

Mourinho relishes chance to knock out his old club and defending champions Barça

The Champion is on the ropes and it is the former corner man who could deliver the knockout blow. They don't refer to Jose Mourinho "The Special One" in Barcelona but rather "The Translator". Tonight, though, the club's former interpreter could eliminate the European Cup holders from the tournament one game short of the end of the group stages.



If Rubin Kazan beat Dynamo Kiev in a game that will already have finished before Internazionale and Barcelona kick off at the Nou Camp, the Spaniards will go out if they lose – left to scrap for a Europa League place in the final round of Group F matches.

Barcelona's coach, Pep Guardiola, was typically nonchalant ahead of such a premature season-decider. "The result of the other game will not affect us at all," he said. "Even if we hear that Rubin are winning and we are losing and going out, then we will go out attacking, playing the only way we know how."

Not to be outdone in the nonchalance stakes, Mourinho said the fitness of Barça's star player, Lionel Messi, would not affect his plans. "If Messi plays then I will play [Cristian] Chivu, if Pedro plays then I will play Chivu, if [Andres] Iniesta plays then I will play Chivu. My defence does not change. My only doubt is if [Wesley] Sneijder will be fit or not," said the Inter coach, who admitted that beating Barcelona always gave extra satisfaction.

"I come back to Barcelona with only gratitude for all the experience that they gave me in my formation as a coach. But I have played six games against them with Chelsea and also with Inter and they have been emotional games. I have a debt to the club but with all my soul I am determined to beat them every time."

Labelling them the best side in the world, he added: "I prefer to play a game that is going to be very difficult than a game that is going to be too easy for us. A Chelsea v Liverpool for me is better than a Chelsea v Birmingham – those games worry me more when there is a question about getting the players motivated.

"The odds on Barça winning the Champions League have not changed. They were the favourites before and they are still the favourites. They are the best team in Europe and the champions, but anything can happen. It could be that Kiev and Rubin go through to the next round and Inter and Barça are left to fight it out for the Uefa Cup spot."

Barça have experienced a slight wobble domestically, which means they will go into Sunday's clasico a point behind Real Madrid. There is a sense that they are being found out this season. At the weekend, Athletic Bilbao swamped the midfield and stopped both Dani Alves and Gerard Pique from striding out with the ball from the back. Easier said than done, but a team of Inter's calibre will be capable of similar smothering tactics, and the defender Carles Puyol is aware that, while their form might not have affected the odds on them regaining their European crown, their gleam of invincibility has dulled somewhat.

He admitted: "The rivals know us better now. We have no doubts about the way we are playing and we know what we have to do in this game. We did it throughout last season – win football matches." Although he added with caution: "We all have the same desire as last year – the results will either accompany that or not. We are just missing out on some luck. Last year everything went in for us."

Everything going in last season had a lot to do with the then Barça striker Samuel Eto'o being in spectacular form. Tonight he will be wearing the blue and black of Internazionale. The Cameroon forward has already said he would not celebrate were he to score, and the man who decided it was time the club sold him, coach Guardiola, said he believed the fans would give him the reception he deserved.

Eto'o will partner the in-form Diego Milito for Inter. Barcelona will make a decision on their strikers as late as possible. Guardiola refused to rule out Messi starting while admitting his missing out would be a massive loss in what is Barcelona's biggest game since May's European Cup final.

He said: "Messi is the best player in the world, of course we will miss him if he does not play. If [Michael] Jordan doesn't play for the Chicago Bulls then they miss him, if Kobe [Bryant] doesn't play for the Lakers they miss him, but we have to play with what we have."

One man who should be 100 per cent is Thierry Henry, and Guardiola admitted he has a big part to play. "He knows what an important game this is. He is crazy about going all the way again in this competition and he will be fully focused."

Crunch time: Four who must step up at Nou Camp

Thierry Henry

Just one goal for Barcelona since last May and a handful of under-par displays have angered supporters. It's time for the Frenchman to deliver and what better moment, as his handball against Ireland is threatening to be the only thing he is remembered for outside of north London.



Samuel Eto'o

It was Eto'o's knack of scoring goals in big games that made him so important for Barcelona. It has been tougher for him at Inter, where Italian defences have allowed him less space and there is no Messi to help him, but in the wide open spaces of the Nou Camp he will be more at home.



Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The Swede has not scored in a knockout match in the Champions League and, although this is a group game, it's a group game of knockout proportions. Has as much to prove to Inter fans as Eto'o has to Barça supporters.



Diego Milito

The Argentine is currently being overlooked for a World Cup place. The big striker has struck up a rapport with Eto'o and will look to hurt Barça in the air.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Baroness Lane-Fox warned that large companies such as have become so powerful that governments and regulators are left behind
techTech giants have left governments and regulators behind
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
'Prison Architect' players decide the fate of inmates
tech
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor