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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.
Bayern Munich take on Olympique Lyon in the first leg of the second Champions League semi-final and we’ll be following the match between these two stylish teams live from 1845 GMT, 2045 in central Europe.
Will the game be able to match Inter Milan’s crackling 3-1 victory over Barcelona? We’ll be here from around an hour before kick-off with on-the-spot detail from our reporter in the stadium, Karolos Grohmann and plenty of other contributors. Please join us for the fun.
A Spanish soccer club’s youth programme is known as the “cantera”, or quarry, and Barcelona’s current dominance of Real Madrid highlights how the Catalans have mined theirs much more efficiently than their arch rivals.
Seven of the Barca players who started in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Real at the Bernabeu, a record fourth straight win for coach and former quarryman Pep Guardiola in “El Clasico”, came through the club’s youth system, including Argentine maestro Lionel Messi, Spain midfielder Xavi and goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
Saturday’s game between Real Madrid and Barcelona had been dubbed “the match of the millennium” by sports daily Marca and for anyone living in Spain it was impossible to ignore “El Clasico” in the days leading up to the clash at Real’s Bernabeu stadium.
There was certainly plenty at stake for the protagonists, not least the chance to take a big step toward winning La Liga, but the country seemed in the grip of a fever at least as intense as anything I have seen during a major international tournament.
English clubs have failed to reach the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2003, after Arsenal were undone by a superior Barcelona side driven by the brilliant Lionel Messi and Manchester United suffered an astonishing breakdown against Bayern Munich.
They joined Premier League leaders Chelsea on the sidelines, as well as Liverpool after their exit in the group phase. The question is whether this is a shift in the balance of power or merely a blip.
Waiting for the post-match news conferences after a Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona swept into the Champions League semi-finals on Tuesday, a phone rang among the cameramen at the back of the room.
In a voice that would have carried back to his office without technological help, someone answered: “Yeah, Yeah. I’m in Barcelona covering the Arsenal versus Messi game.”
So much hype about how Theo Walcott could be the difference and help Arsenal oust Barcelona from the Champions League on Tuesday night proved a bit unfortunate, didn’t it? Walcott again produced a frustrating performance as he was outshone by the wizard that is Lionel Messi.
Let’s get one thing out of the way. Comparisons with Messi would make unfortunate reading for anyone but that doesn’t alter the fact that Walcott, for all that wonderful talent, lacked confidence and conviction when he was most needed.
In a couple of short sentences, Cesc Fabregas summed up Wednesday night’s humdinger of a Champions League game pretty well perfectly, and made a persuasive case for a selection gamble that could make or break the Arsenal season.
We’re live blogging the night’s two Champions League quarter-final first legs, with expert commentary and analysis, including on-the-spot details from our reporters in the stadiums (or stadia, if you prefer).
Join us here from around 1645 GMT for all the build-up and action from the biggest club competition in town.