Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Samuel Eto'o, left, scored against Juventus on Friday as Inter kept pace with Roma in Serie A.
Samuel Eto'o, left, scored against Juventus on Friday as Inter kept pace with Roma in Serie A.

Eto'o back among friends

The Inter striker scored against Juventus on Friday and he can make Barca regret swapping him with Ibrahimovic.

The Barcelona team began their long journey to Milan for tonight's Champions League semi-final first leg against Inter by coach on Sunday morning. They stopped for the night on the French Riviera, hoping their unusual travel plans do not affect them like it did the Hannover players who stood for five hours on a train before their weekend game at Bayern Munich. They were beaten 7-0.

Inter and Barca met earlier in this season's competition, where the Catalans outclassed Jose Mourinho's side in Italy but only drew 0-0. Barca won the return leg 2-0, with the Italian side barely touching the ball for large swathes of the game. Despite domestic woes resulting in them losing a 14-point lead at the top of Serie A to Roma, Inter are expected to provide sterner opponents this time around for Barca.

Buoyed by home and away wins over Chelsea in the second round, Mourinho appears to be excelling where Roberto Mancini, his predecessor who won three consecutive Serie A titles with Inter, failed - in Europe. The Portuguese coach can field stubbornly obdurate defensive sides and will not be afraid of parking his side's bus in front of the Inter goal for the return leg at Camp Nou next week. Julio Cesar, the Brazil national team goalkeeper, is excellent and sure to be kept busy, but Inter started a recent match with Christian Chivu, Ivan Cordoba, Maicon, Javier Zanetti, Sulley Ali Muntari, Marco Materazzi, Lucio and Thiago Motta - effectively an eight-man defence. Yet if Inter are to reach a first European Cup final since a 1972 defeat by Ajax, they will need to score at least once.

They do boast some formidable attackers, of which Diego Milito, the sublime finisher, has been their best this season, though most attention will be on Samuel Eto'o, the former Barca striker. The Cameroonian has impressed with his big-game temperament since moving to Milan last summer. That switch was famously part of the transfer which sent Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the other direction, with Inter additionally receiving an astonishing ?40 million (Dh198m).

The deal was messy, with Eto'o still embroiled in legal action with Barca to recoup ?3m he considers still due to him in commissions. It has emerged since that Eto'o is actually on loan at Inter, though there is no chance he will return to Barcelona. Eto'o has calmed his once volcanic temper since moving to Milan and enjoyed a recent return to form, scoring the second in Friday's hard-fought victory over the 10 men of Juventus. He also scored a key Coppa Italia goal against Fiorentina last week which propelled Inter into the final. Eto'o remains highly regarded by most at Barca and the feeling is mutual.

"It's impossible to say that anyone but Messi is the best player in the world at the moment," he told reporters last week. "And it's hard to say that Barca are not the best side, but football's funny and anything can happen." Ibrahimovic, the man who took over Eto'o's locker at Camp Nou, will be greeted warmly in San Siro. He has overcome the injury which kept him out of most of Barca's recent successes, but came off the bench in Saturday's derby at Espanyol. He has enjoyed a solid first season at Barca, though anyone pales when compared to Messi.

Aside from long-term injury to Davide Santon, his left-back, Mourinho should be able to select from a full squad. Barca have sold 5,400 tickets - a huge number for a club not renowned for their travelling support, though most of those were aiming to fly and are likely to be hit by travel restrictions. They just hope that the lengthy over-land journey will not exhaust their players. sports@thenational.ae Inter v Barcelona, 10.45pm, Aljazeera Sport +3 & +5

Lucio v Lionel Messi A Brazilian against an Argentine is always a battle worth watching. Inter's big centre-back will have his work cut out stopping the world's best player. Thiago Motta v Xavi Once Barcelona get hold of the ball, it is hard to get it off them and Xavi is the man who pulls the strings. Motta, his former teammate, can shackle him. Maicon v Maxwell Teammates at Inter last year before Maxwell's move to Spain, both are full-backs whose first thought is to attack. They play on the same flank tonight. Samuel Eto'o v Victor Valdes The Barcelona keeper has developed into a first-class shot stopper. He will have to keep out Eto'o, who on his game is as clinical as they come.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Floyd Mayweather lands punches on trainer Nate Jones on Tuesday at the Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas ahead of his May 3 championship unification bout with Marcos Maidana. Ethan Miller / Getty Images / AFP / April 22, 2014

In pictures: Floyd Mayweather trains for Maidana fight

Images from earlier in the week as Floyd Mayweather trained at the Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas ahead of his May 3 championship unification fight with Marcos Maidana.

 UAE rugby player Daniel Minks pushes against a Singapore tackler during Wednesday night’s Asian Five Nations Test. Sarah Dea / The National / April 23, 2014

UAE national rugby team needs to look within to raise standards

While domestic clubs like Jebel Ali Dragons and Abu Dhabi Harlequins find regional success, the UAE national side isn't benefitting from the talent pool in the country, writes Paul Radley.

 Ravindra Jadeja of Chennai Super Kings playing a shot in their Indian Premier League win over Rajasthan Royals at Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Wednesday. Jadeja scored 36 runs not out from 33 balls. Pawan Singh / The National / April 23, 2014

In pictures: Chennai Super Kings notch win behind do-everything Jadeja

Images from Wednesday night's Indian Premier League match in Dubai, where Ravindra Jadeja led Chennai Super Kings over Rajasthan Royals.

 Suresh Raina has scored 84 runs in three IPL matches so far this season for Chennai Super Kings. Ravindranatah K / The National

Suresh Raina has always been brightest in Chennai yellow

An enigmatic presence in India's line-up, writes Osman Samiuddin, Suresh Raina is at his freest, his easiest and his best with the IPL's Chennai Super Kings.

 Azzam crew member Luke Parkinson works on the new 65-foot carbon racing yacht during preparation for the Volvo Ocean Race. Courtesy Ian Roman / ADOR

A little calm after the storm for Azzam crew

Azzam skipper Ian Walker writes another monthly update ahead of the Volvo Ocean Race as his crew enjoy a 10-day break after some rough conditions following their delivery from the UK to Portugal.

 Singapore have nearly half the side in home-grown players and prefer not to be reliant on expatriates. Sarah Dea / The National / April 23, 2014

Asian Five Nations: Singapore ideal model for impatient UAE’s rugby federation

The UAE Rugby Federation are keen for their national team to have such heavy Emirati representation. They have a good template to follow.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National