Inter-Barça clash shows gulf in quality

Of course they couldn't ignore him.

Serie Aaaaargh: How do you solve a problem like Ibra?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic received the predicted chorus of whistles and jeers from the San Siro faithful, but at the end they stood to applaud the team the Swede now turns out for.

News: September 16: Ibrahimovic fails to answer sceptics

There will be no better side visiting the San Siro this season – unless the Catalans return later in the competition.

The gulf between Inter and the Champions League holders was there for all to see but at least Jose Mourinho – for once not hogging the limelight – and his men have a benchmark to set their season against.

Little could be gauged from the Ibra-Eto’o match-up, as the home side spent most of the game pinned back in their own third, leaving the Cameroonian to feed off the scraps from long clearances.

The returning anti-hero, who did the rounds of hugging his former team-mates before kick-off and smothered a kit-man in a bear-hug of what seemed genuine affection, was as wasteful in a tangerine top as he ever was in the black-and-blue shirt.

However, he seemed to be actually enjoying himself – which can't be said for the jilted Eto’o, who received no greeting other than a Carles Puyol kick on the calves.

Mourinho maintained there was very little difference between the sides.

And certainly if both teams were to merge, with Inter providing the defensive muscle – Walter Samuel and Lucio were all raw physicality – then we would have the most complete outfit on the planet.

As it stands, the Portuguese will have to use the domestic encounters as a testing ground to expand a fluid passing game – but then of course he will never have Lionel Messi to draw markers and create that extra yard of space into which the Barça midfield pour in abundance.

Wesley Sneijder, when he beds himself in, will provide an outlet of sorts, but it will still be the physical approach that defines Inter’s game.

Overall, one would have to say that the Spanish champions deserved victory but the point for Inter will be precious, with trips to Dynamo Kyiv and Rubin Kazan more likely to determine where they finish in the group.

News: September 16: Kyiv purple patch crushes Kazan
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A satisfactory start then for the Italians in Europe, with only Fiorentina coming up short, thanks in part to Alberto Gilardino getting himself sent off against the Tuscans' bête noire Lyon.

News: September 16: Lyon leave it late to beat Fiorentina

The Viola’s season is now in danger of turning into turmoil, off the pitch at any rate, with reports that the Della Valle family are ready to walk away if Florence City Council refuse to give planning permission to build a new training complex.

A decision is set for September 21 and Fiorentina have called an extraordinary meeting on September 24 to respond to what seems likely to be the bright, red “rejected” stamp.

Now click here to read the Catalan viewpoint from La Liga Loca... 

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