Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Barcelona’s travel hell not a big deal, says Mourinho

Jose Mourinho

Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho does not believe his side will gain any advantage from Barcelona's disrupted build-up to tonight's Champions League semi-final first leg at the San Siro.

Barca's high-profile stars were forced to undertake a 600-mile coach trip to Milan due to the air travel restrictions in force across Europe caused by the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano.

But Mourinho is confident Barca will be unaffected by the alterations to their travel plans.

“I don't think it will matter,” said the former Chelsea boss. “It is their body, their mind that has to respond.

“If it happened to me, I would try to transform a problem into motivation, something to enjoy, to have the squad together due to a difficulty. It doesn't seem like a drama to me.”

With Barca having successfully sidestepped the affects of one force of nature, speculation now switches to another, with Lionel Messi expected to take centre stage again tonight.

The Argentina international has been in stunning form during Barca's run to the last four, scoring eight goals, four of which came in the quarter-final demolition of Arsenal earlier this month.

Messi has netted 40 times in all competitions this season and Mourinho admits it is difficult to know how to handle his threat given the fluid tactics employed by Barca coach Pep Guardiola.

“Above all let's see how they play against us because I don't know,” Mourinho said. “None of us know. He could play right, left, centre. We don't know.

“What we know is that he is an important player and football, for me, is not about marking man to man. It's not for me.

“It is not one against Messi and 10 v 10, it will be 11 v 11, although he deserves special attention.”

For all Mourinho's famed mind games, the psychological advantage will assuredly rest with Barcelona tonight after they got the better of Inter in the group stage.

Both sides qualified from Group F but it was Barca that topped the pile after drawing away in Milan and winning 2-0 at the Nou Camp in November.

Mourinho concedes Barca were “far superior” in those meetings, but does not expect history to repeat itself over their two-legged semi.

“In the [second] game in the group, Barca showed that they are far superior. They won easily, deserved to win and in that game we were not capable of responding to them,” he conceded.

“But that was November, many months ago. They have followed their path, we have followed ours and it seems like we are a lot better than we were in November.

“I accept that they are favourites — this does not offend me — but I think it's 50/50.”

Inter's progression to the semis came after wins over Chelsea and CSKA Moscow in the knockout stage, and maintains their push for glory on three fronts.

Mourinho's men are once again vying for the Serie A title, just a point behind Roma with four games to play, and have reached the final of the Coppa Italia.

The Portuguese concedes his team is on the brink of a remarkable achievement, but warned there was still a huge amount of work to do.

“I can sum things up and say it has been a spectacular season, an absolutely spectacular one, but we have to wait to the end of season to see if I am satisfied with this spectacular season,” he said.

“To be satisfied, we need to do more. We can end the season with three, two or one titles. Between zero and three, there is a big difference.”

Left-back Davide Santon and goalkeeper Francesco Toldo are the only absentees for Inter while while Mourinho is expected to decide whether or not to move full-back Maicon into a more advanced role to bolster his midfield.

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