Did Barcelona sleep through the Inter videos?
Inter Milan’s masterclass performance against Barcelona will have impressed many, including Pep Guardiola, and produced just the first-leg outcome the tie needed to set up a gripping return leg at the Nou Camp next Wednesday.
Graceful after his first two-goal defeat since he took over at Barcelona, Guardiola refused to blame the fact his team had endured a 14-hour coach ride to Milan after volcanic ash from Iceland grounded flights across Europe.
But, having said he had made good use of the trip by watching Inter videos, Guardiola might wonder whether some of his players had taken a nap when they should have been paying attention.
Or, were the European champions simply outplayed by a team who had done their homework?
Barcelona were tactically undone by Jose Mourinho the same way his former club Chelsea were picked apart in the last 16, when they were taken aback by Inter’s adventurous lineup with a three-pronged attack.
Mourinho deployed the same strategy against Barcelona, with Goran Pandev and Samuel Eto’o dropping back to cut off the supply routes while right back Maicon was a constant threat on the break.
Like Chelsea, Barcelona struggled to find a way through a congested Inter midfield and although they took an early lead, they then fell to three sucker punches which Mourinho’s teams are so good at landing.
But there is little doubt that Inter face a stern test of their ability to finish the job, having hung on with their fingernails to stop Barca from scoring a second in the closing stages.
Few teams would be fully confident in overturning a 3-1 deficit against the likes of Inter, but Guardiola will be simply because his team have the talent and firepower to achieve anything, as shown by their domestic exploits and the imperious run to the Champions League semi-finals.
On Tuesday evening though, Mourinho’s battle-hardened troops found chinks in Barcelona’s seemingly impenetrable armour and demonstrated how unpredictable the beautiful game can be.