Inter coach insists they have closed gap on Barça - European - Football - The Independent

Inter coach insists they have closed gap on Barça

Jose Mourinho delivered a "that was then, this is now" message to Barcelona ahead of tonight's Champions League semi-final.

The Internazionale coach watched his team humbled in the Nou Camp towards the end of last year as the Italians were beaten 2-0 in the group stages. But, with summer signings Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto'o now fully acclimatised to their new surroundings, Inter go into the home straight still with the chance of winning a treble and, more importantly, of lifting the European Cup for the first time in 45 years.

"Barcelona showed they were hugely superior to us and they won easily," Mourinho said. "They deserved the victory and we were unable to respond to their superiority, but that was November. Barça are still as good as they were back then but what has changed is the way we are playing. We are a much better team than we were back then. I understand why everybody seems to have Barcelona as the clear favourites and that doesn't offend me, but when I look at it I see a tie that is balanced 50-50."

Asked if he thought Barcelona's unorthodox and potentially draining coach trip to Milan would be a major advantage for his side he said he believed the holders were capable of turning an inconvenience into something positive.

He added: "It is a drama but they will have made the journey fun, I am sure, and it would have been an opportunity for them to bond even more as a team and be even more united ahead of the game."

Barcelona's sporting director, Txiki Begiristain, was less inclined to see the positive side of his side's long-haul road trip.

He said: "I know that there are no dates to play these games but ultimately an effort has to be made to prevent one team – in this case the home team in the first leg – from having a clear advantage. Making one side arrive to a game by bus is a story that seems to belong to another era."

Pep Guardiola, the Barça coach, echoed the thoughts of Begiristain, saying: "The trip was not too comfortable for us but we can't let it affect us now. Lots have people have been left stranded throughout Europe. I would rather spend 14 hours on a coach to play the Champions League semi-finals than have to watch them at home. We will try to give everything on the pitch."

Guardiola was eager to expand on the threat posed by the Italian side and their canny coach. "Inter are playing differently now with three up-front and one attacking midfielder," he said. "It is very difficult to prepare a game against them because their coach is very intelligent. We will try to generate chances and get the away goal. We know how important it is to score away and, of course, we will run until we can run no more."

Guardiola also said that he felt Inter's long wait for success in Europe's premier competition made them a more dangerous opponent. "They have not won the Champions for so long so they have that ambition which makes them very dangerous," he explained. "They are strong throughout the whole side and they can hurt you on the counter attack."

Key to resisting such a threat will be a certain Lionel Messi, who scored four times in the second leg against Arsenal and has 40 in all competitions this season. Mourinho admits it is difficult to know how to handle his threat, given the fluid tactics employed by Guardiola. "Above all, let's see how they play because I don't know," Mourinho said. "None of us know. He could play right, left, centre. We don't know.

"What we know is that he is an important player and football, for me, is not about marking man-to-man. It's not for me. Tomorrow it is not one against Messi and 10 v 10, it will be 11 v 11, although he deserves special attention."

Guardiola looked to ease some of the pressure on himself and his players by labelling his opposite number Mourinho as the world's best coach. Asked about tonight's opposition he said: "We are up against a very good Inter side, who have a coach who is possibly the best in the world at the moment.

"The game will not be decided here in San Siro. Inter are too good for us to tie things up here. Everything will be decided in the [return leg at] Camp Nou."

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week