APTOPIX ITALY SOCCER CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

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With Barcelona meeting Inter for the third time this season, we take a short look at what went down in the group stage and some notes on how things will turn out on Tuesday at the San Siro, the first leg of the UEFA Champions League Semi Final.

Inter – Barcelona, 0-0, September 16, 2009

Barcelona – Inter, 2-0, November 24, 2009

Goals: Gerard Pique, Pedro

In both matches, including the 0-0 draw at the San Siro, Barcelona dominated the match from start to finish. Mourinho played very cautiosly in both matches. He decided he’ll try and pinch a goal if possible. If not, a draw with the best team in the world is fine by him.

Jose Mourinho

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Inter was still in transition earlier this season, with the new arrivals of Eto’o, Milito and Sneijder still sinking in. They have looked much better in the Champions league since the knockout stage began, impressively defeating Chelsea with Eto’o proving his worth.

So what now? Inter have lost their first place in Italy and for the first time in what seems to be an eternity, might not win the title. Barcelona threw away the momentum and lead they earned in their Superclasico victory over Real by drawing 0-0 with their city rivals Espanyol, finishing the match with 10 men after Dani Alves got sent off. Who’s the hotter team coming in?

Diego Milito

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Inter have only one defeat this season in the Champions League, the 2-0 loss to Barca in November. They are a very strong home side, but the knockout stages have also proven their worth away from Milano, beating CSKA and Chelsea in the second legs, coming as the visitors. They are a very strong and organized at the the back, and although Barcelona are efficient “bunker busters”, the third time around might finally go the nerazzurri’s way. Lets not forget Inter are coming in boosted by their 2-0 win over Juventus, including Maicon’s wonder goal.

Barcelona? Iniesta and Abidal won’t be playing, but Barca are a thinking and evolving team, all the time. Their coach is a thinker and he always tries to upgrade his team by shifting the tactics and positions. No matter where they come to, this Barcelona side is always favored and expected to win, except when arriving at Madrid to play Real. You remember how that went the last two visits, right? Messi, despite not scoring in Barca’s last two matches, is the best player on the planet right now (these things change so quickly) and he has Xavi behind him to set him up. Pedro, who has just exploded out of nowhere this season, could be the X-factor for Barcelona as all the key individuals will be heavily guarded and watched. You can’t stop everyone, and Pedro’s fantastic form of late could be the key in making their second consecutive Champions League final.

Xavi

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A frightening thought for Inter, maybe more towards next week – Messi wasn’t even playing when Barcelona beat them 5 months ago. Will Mourniho prove again that he’s the “special one”? A win tomorrow is a must. I can’t see Barcelona losing at the Nou Camp like last week. This isn’t an arrogant team and coach like Chelsea and Ancelotti are. Despite all the success in the last year and a half, Guardiola seems to be keeping his player on their toes and hungry for more. It’ll be interesting to see if Inter will succeed were Real failed just over a week ago.