Straight from the dark heart of Italy
Jose Mourinho could never be described as impulsive, planning as he does every move well ahead of its final execution.
He probably mulls over how to dress for each occasion, to shave or not to ahead of a Champions League press conference – usually sporting a few days stubble – and then immaculately turned on the day of the big game.
Nothing is ever left to chance, so that may explain why he has decided to boycott speaking to the Italian press unless forced to under UEFA orders - well aware that he has met his match in Machiavellian cunning when it comes to dissecting every word.
It is therefore no surprise that Inter’s build-up to the game of the season - or any other in the last seven years when they last made this far - at Barcelona should come shrouded in half-truths.
Was Wesley Sniejder really so badly injured that he may be out for the rest of the season and not only the clash at the Nou Camp as was initially reported on Italian radio?
"Tell them I'm not talking to them..."
It seems that the 'Calculating One' has been taking a leaf out of the old master of spin Sir Alex Ferguson’s handbook on leading the opposition down a blind alley - and as with Wayne Rooney turning up on the team-sheet against Bayern Munich, so the dashing little Dutchman was always going to be fit and ready.
It is one of those subplots that the Portuguese schemer throws out there now to make for even greater drama when we get back to the main story, which is of course Inter attempting to emerge victorious and finally sate their own obsession which has been going on since 1965.
Even the fact that Barcelona’s players have had to turn cheerleaders to encourage their own fans to believe they can overcome a 3-1 deficit will be used as evidence that the opposition are running scared in their own back-yard.
Barca not only has to find at least two goals, but also unravel the Mourinho maze when it comes to which formation he will field.
Against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge it was daring in the extreme as he employed three players in more advanced positions but only Diego Milito in the out-and-out front-man role as Samuel Eto’o and Goran Pandev employed pace and alertness to cover back along the flanks.
Sniejder was free to roam, with Esteban Cambiasso and Thiago Motta forming the solid base in front of the back-four.
There was less surprise when the formula was repeated in the first leg against the defending champions, but while guile outdid the English and speed caught the Catalans out, it will probably need a more traditional Ital-Argentine approach this time around.
Cambiasso will be looking to kick Lionel Messi into touch...
The Italian Cup semi-final second leg at Fiorentina may have offered a better indication of how Inter will go about defending their lead regardless of declarations about taking the game to the home side.
In the domestic Cup tie, Inter were defending a slender one-goal lead but a striker – Milito - was sacrificed for a defender – Ivan Cordoba – and Douglas Maicon was pushed on to the right side of a four-man midfield.
The Brazilian revelled at the opportunity to surge forward but without neglecting to cover Cordoba at full-back.
Tellingly, Mario Balotelli was employed on the left of midfield but Javier Zanetti was sweeping in front of the backline with Sulley Muntari just in front alongside Motta for added protection.
Eto’o was left to keep the opposition defence occupied and was rewarded with the only goal of the game.
A slight tinkering of personnel could produce a similar outcome: with Zanetti at left-back; Cambiasso anchoring the midfield behind Motta and Sneijder further ahead and Pandev on the left.
That would leave either Eto’o or Milito to start in attack, but then what about the former handed the role of keeping Dani Alves on the back-foot along the left flank and at the same adding support to the Argentine?
No doubt the master planner has it all worked out in his head. And like his dress sense on European nights, it should be spot on.
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