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October 16, 2021

Champions League: Inter-Barcelona, historic clash on San Siro

With the reigning Italian and Spanish champions having been direct rivals in Group F back in autumn, the conventional headlines previewing today’s Champions League semi-final between Inter and Barcelona seem to linger on the side of old news.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Samuel Eto’o have already faced their former teams, leaving little room on that front other than speculating whether the Swede or Cameroonian will score against their old sides and if so, whether they should celebrate. Barca coach Pep Guardiola and Inter tactician Jose Mourinho are largely considered to be two of the most formidable minds in contemporary football and have earned their reputations among the best managers of the modern game, writes goal.com.

During his time at Chelsea, Mourinho employed a 4-3-3 system, the same formation Guardiola religiously adheres to in Barca’s perpetual and relentless attacking machine, outwardly voicing his belief that such a formation was football’s most rational system.

While Mourinho no longer relies on a 4-3-3 system at Inter, largely opting instead for a 4-3-1-2 or a 4-2-3-1 formation, which emphasises exploiting the width of the pitch by way of wing play (in part to suit the style of play in the Serie A and also because he believes it is a better fit for the players in his current squad), Guardiola has taken the formation that inherently creates an equal distribution of players around the pitch and perfected it.

Inspiring his players to compete with unrivalled work ethic, Guardiola has engineered a team that suffocate their opponents in defence, restricting avenues for counterattacks and breaking down the opposition’s formations simply by keeping the ball and forcing teams to collapse their shape just to try to win back possession.

During the course of matches, both Mourinho and Guardiola are the best in their trade at making the necessary adjustments to keep their teams firing on all cylinders. Students of the game, it is apparent both coaches have spent hours upon hours watching videos, taking diligent notes, and drilling their players so that the team accomplish their objectives precisely as envisaged.

Tuesday’s Champions League clash between Barca and Inter will be a chess match of epic proportions and in many ways, it is a shame that these two sides should meet in the semi-finals and not contend for the title in the Madrid final.

While Barca largely outplayed the Nerazzurri in the group stage matches, Mourinho’s men have progressed strongly over the course of the season and the Portuguese now knows how to get the best out of his squad in a Champions League fixture. But rest assured, Guardiola will have his historic Barca side ready to attack at San Siro.

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