Apprentice Mourinho stares down mentor Van Gaal

BARCELONA - Jose Mourinho has destroyed the Champions League dreams of former clubs Chelsea and Barcelona but he faces a quiet and familiar menace in next month's final.

The colourful Inter Milan coach will have to outfox his former mentor Louis van Gaal when his side takes on Bundesliga powerhouse Bayern Munich at the Bernebeu on May 22.

Mourinho was an assistant to Bayern coach Louis van Gaal during the Dutchman's tenure at Barca in the late 1990s and went on to coach Porto to Champions League glory in 2004.

The self-proclaimed "Special One" then shook up the English Premier League by leading Chelsea to two titles.

A contrast of personalities, both men are chasing a treble this season in their domestic league and cups in addition to the Champions League.

Soon after an adrenaline-fuelled sprint across the Nou Camp pitch to pump his fists in the direction of Inter fans high up in the stands, Mourinho lavished praise on Bayern and Van Gaal.

"Bayern have a great team with a lot of quality," the 47-year-old Portuguese said. "They have a great tradition in the Champions League and a great coach.

"They are an example to many clubs. They stood by Van Gaal after a poor start and now they are in the final."

Perhaps unsurprisingly given their former proximity, Mourinho's Inter and van Gaal's Bayern have similar playing styles.

Their teams are built around hard-working, tenacious midfielders like Inter's Esteban Cambiasso or Bayern's Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Physical, hard-tackling defenders such as Inter's former Bayern centre back Lucio or Bayern's Daniel van Buyten and Martin Demichelis underpin the two teams.

Barca had 76 percent of possession against Inter but only managed four shots on target and failed to penetrate what Gazzetta dello Sport dubbed Inter's "Wall of Glory."

SWEETEST DEFEAT

Even Mourinho, whose relationship with the Italian media could not be worse with him snubbing domestic news conferences, won universal praise in Thursday's papers.

"It's the right reward for Mourinho's heroic lions," trumpeted the Gazzetta after what the coach described as the "sweetest 1-0 defeat of my life."

"Mourinho deserves a lot of credit," chimed the Corriere dello Sport's editorial. "The improvement in the team, from one which was great at home but timid abroad, has been amazing."

Whether Mourinho can knock the unflappable van Gaal off kilter with his famous mind games in the build-up to the final remains to be seen.

Before Wednesday's game Mourinho diverted some of the pressure from his players by accusing Barca of being obsessed with reaching the final at the home of bitter rivals Real Madrid.

It provoked Barca president Joan Laporta into calling him a "second-rate psychologist" but Mourinho scratched further by strolling nonchalantly on to the pitch before the warm-up.

At the final whistle he milked the moment, index finger raised in the air as furious Barca faithful rained bottles and other objects down onto the pitch.

MOURINHO UNMOVED