Mourinho ready-made to cut Messi down to size

Inter could have played with a plastic ball on that plastic pitch and would have still strolled to victory in Moscow.

It fact, the way Wesley Sneijder’s free-kick swerved in the opposite direction to the way the Dutchman struck the sphere suggested that it was in fact a larger version of a table tennis ball.

Six minutes had gone on the clock and the pre-dinner crowd in one of Milan’s city centre watering-holes returned to their cocktails and chit-chat on how they had spent the Easter break.

Jose Mourinho had obviously spent the same period over the long weekend further cementing the Inter team building exercise: in London it was a stroll around the streets near the hotel, in Moscow a visit to the Red Square.

Taking a leaf out of the KGB handbook on discrediting the enemy, he then cast doubts over the home side’s claims that they had to postpone their weekend fixture due to a shortage of security personnel.

It even gave the snide one a chance to have a little dig at those back home when he compared the situation to a stunt Adriano Galliani had pulled when AC Milan had an Italian Cup tie re-arranged early in the year.

It may have been in poor taste considering the events that only recently occurred in Moscow, but then Mourinho’s world never seems to orbit far from the put-down and the “them against us” paranoia - such as his latest assertion that Inter will have to defeat opponents off as well as on the pitch to reclaim the title.

How he will relish getting his claws into Barcelona once again just as he did against Chelsea.

The last time the sides met was back in November when the Catalans dominated sans Lionel Messi, even though Mourinho was defiant after the 2-0 defeat in the Nou Camp.

He may have been full of praise for the opposition, but at the same time questioned why his side could not defeat the defending champions later in the competition.

He now has the chance and no doubt there will be flattery aplenty, but it will come wrapped in the knowledge that there is nothing the mischievous one would like more than to defeat his old employer in their own backyard.

There is no getting away from it; this will be the Mou-Messi match-up.

There is no reason why Inter cannot cheer the whole of Spain if not Italy and make it a Madrid date in May, especially if they can come away from the first leg at the San Siro on level terms – goalless would do nicely although of course that may be asking too much.

Everyone knows how Barca play, it is just trying to stop them that becomes the difficult part – and this is where Inter in Mourinho’s image are now masters of pressure and organisation.

The two holding midfielders – be it Esteban Cambassio or one from Dejan Stankovic and Thiago Motta – are the key to breaking up moves and launching quick counter-attacks for any one of four players breaking forward.

They will not have to keep hold of the ball for too long, but instead force the opposition on to the back foot and thinking about Diego Milito and Samuel Eto’o lurking over their shoulder.

The midfielders, including Sneijder, will also play their part in attempting to shackle Messi by closing down the supply routes to the cheeky-faced little fella and then closing down the space in and around the area where the opposition thrive on playing the quick one-twos.

It has all the making of an absolutely enthralling semi-final between two schools of the game - and no doubt Europe’s most well-known tour guide is already planning his route down Las Ramblas.

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