San Siro awaits Champions League Semi-Final even if thousands are left stranded at airports across Europe!
Inter Milan could move full-back Maicon into midfield for Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg.
Manager Jose Mourinho is keen to add to his midfield in a bid to combat Lionel Messi’s influence, but left-back Davide Santon is out after minor knee surgery.
Barcelona, who have been forced to travel to Italy by coach because of the volcanic ash cloud saga, have full-back Eric Abidal back after a thigh injury.
Messi will play despite sitting out training, but Andres Iniesta is out.
The Spanish side’s quest to become the first team to defend the European crown since AC Milan in 1990 has not been helped by the travel chaos across large parts of Europe, and the 450-mile journey to northern Italy will be made over two days.
Inter skipper Javier Zanetti dismissed speculation that some of his squad were suffering from fatigue as the season draws towards its climax.
The 36-year-old has played 47 matches so far this term but insisted: “At the moment I don’t feel tired. I still feel good and I want to play my part for the team.
“We are fine. We are playing a lot of games at the moment and each one of them needs our full potential and we can’t relax on any front. When we do start to feel tired we need to be smart about it and then we can get over it.”
The teams have already met in the group stages of the competition this season, with a 0-0 stalemate at the San Siro followed by a 2-0 victory for Barca at the Nou Camp, courtesy of goals from Pedro and Gerard Pique.
“Inter know us better and they will be better prepared for our tactics,” added Busquets.
“Their confidence is high after getting through against teams like Chelsea and the fact that there is a chance of making the final will mean they come out really fired up.”
Mourinho expects his side to have a lot of closing down to do against Barcelona’s star-studded attacking players and said: “I’m not interested in the possession of the ball. If the team that has the most possession wins, then we’ve already lost.
“For the first 10 minutes and the last 10 in the game in September in Milan, they were better but for the rest it was even.
“In the game in Barcelona in the group they showed great superiority, winning easily and deservedly.
“But a lot of time has passed since then. They’re as good as they were in November but we’re much better now.
“Therefore I believe it’s a 50-50 game. Tactically we’re more compact, the mentality in the Champions League is very different, the psychological situation is totally different.”
The former Chelsea boss insists there are no plans to mark Messi out of the game and said: “He’s a great player who requires a lot of attention but it’s not in my culture to man-mark.
“It won’t be one against Messi and 10 against 10, it will be 11 against 11.” (BBC Sport)
Whilst Jose Mourinho’s rather glib assessment of the threat that Leo Messi possesses is a mathematically correct there is no doubt that trying to stop the Argentine from getting time and space on the ball will be one of his main priorities. Inter Milan under the former Chelsea man are in many ways the polar opposite of the Catalan giants, the Serie A side are very much the type of team who looks to contain and stifle the opposition and then look to swift attacking options to win the day. If there is a team in Europe capable of nullifying Barcelona then its the San Siro side.
Pepe Guardiola’s side come into this game off the back of a hugely disappointing performance against near neighbours Espanyol, a goalless draw that let Real Madrid back into the La Liga title hunt but all of that will become irrelevant when these two European giants come head to head.
My Bet of the Day would be on Inter pulling off something of a surprise win in the first leg of his mouthwatering Champions League Semi-Final. You can get a healthy 21/10 on an Inter win and I would fancy a flutter on a 2-1 win at 10/1. As for first goalscorers well 16/1 on Dejan Stankovic is almost too good to resist and 4/1 on Messi may be a decent back up bet. 11/10 on there being five or more cards shown is also pretty worthwhile as the game is bound to get tasty.
My Prediction: 2-1 to Inter Milan. Messi to score a crucial away goal?
Here are the highlights to the two previous encounters this season.
Inter Milan 0-0 Barcelona September 2009
Barcelona 2-0 Inter Milan November 2009
CLICK HERE to see Highlights.