Barca, Inter trade blows before European showdown
It’s considered irresponsible for a coach to call for fans to intimidate visiting teams and referees, just as it courts controversy to accuse rivals of diving a lot.
The restrictions on coaches are not so tightly applied to players so it was Gerard Pique and Thiago Motta who waded in to do the dirty work, in the buildup to Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final return between Barcelona and Inter Milan.
Barca have tried to make sure supporters rally to the cause at the Nou Camp, to help them overturn their 3-1 deficit, and Barca’s popular rabble-rouser Pique went on the attack on Monday.
“I hope Inter hate their profession for 90 minutes,” the Spain international said, as he called for fans to turn the stadium into a cauldron for the visitors.
His coach Pep Guardiola is far too cool and softly-spoken to issue a similar clarion call. He sought to tone down Pique’s words at his pre-match news conference on Tuesday, amid accusations Barca were trying to generate an intimidating atmosphere for both Inter and the referee.
“We want the fans to come and get behind us and to enjoy the game, not to be against another team and their coach,” Guardiola said as he preferred to keep the focus on his own team.
“It’s like a film director or a writer, who is always trying to please his viewers or his readers,” he continued. “It’s not about the other team, it’s about us being ourselves.”
Former Barca midfielder Thiago Motta stirred things up for the Italians, choosing a particularly raw wound in provoking his opponents.
Barca and the Spanish media complained bitterly about the refereeing after the first leg, saying the match official had allowed Inter’s players to break up the game with an overly physical approach.
The Brazilian countered on Tuesday: “We are used to seeing Barcelona players dive a lot. We will try and help the referee to do his job.”
Inter boss Jose Mourinho played it down. “I’m sure he didn’t put it like that,” he said when asked about his midfielder’s comments.
“We had a meeting this morning and all I told my players was to support the work of the referees. I hope Barca do the same to make it easy for the referee.”
Both Guardiola and Mourinho will no doubt be pleased Pique and Motta said what they said. Both clubs got their message across.
On Wednesday, the fans will fill the stadium and make a lot of noise. The referee will be the focus of intense scrutiny, and it will be the players doing the dirty work once again.
PHOTO: Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho looks down during a news conference at the Nou Camp in Barcelona April 27, 2010. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi.