Jose Mourinho – Masterclass On The Coaches’ Voice: Inter Milan 3 Barcelona 1 UEFA Champions League 2009-10

Jose Mourinho – Masterclass On The Coaches’ Voice: Inter Milan 3 Barcelona 1 UEFA Champions League 2009-10

Revisiting one of the great UEFA Champions League nights at the San Siro, The Coaches’ Voice, break down and asked Jose Mourinho, the man who executed one of the great Inter victories in the club’s history(before winning the Champions League final that year of course) about beating Barcelona at the San Siro in the 2009-10 Champions League semi-final first leg.

On a warm summer night on 20th April 2010, Jose Mourinho’s Inter side faced a rampant Barcelona team managed by Pep Guardiola in the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg.

The scoreline ended Inter 3 Barcelona 1 on the night, but in their Masterclass video, the Coaches’ Voice get the gameplan, the tactics, and the philosophy explained by Jose Mourinho himself.

Inter came into that season after the Portuguese tactician steered them to a domestic league and cup double in his first season in charge and in his second season, the iconic treble. But in their way was arguably one of the greatest Barcelona sides in history.

This was a new, rejuvenated Barcelona, as the Guardiolista philosophy began to take hold and revolutionize how Cruyff’s ‘total football’ would evolve into ‘tiki-taka’, Barcelona had completed a six-trophy haul in 2009 alone, winning most notably, the Champions League, La Liga & Copa Del Rey apart from the Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup, and Spanish Super Cup, so this was a Barcelona side at the peak of their powers, with Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi firing on all cylinders & in his gifted, cerebral, and physical peak, terrorizing defenders across Europe.

The Base Tactics

Mourinho set up Inter in a 4-2-3-1: Julio Cezar in goal, a flat back four of Maicon, Lucio, Walter Samuel, and Zanetti with a double pivot of Thiago Motta and Esteban Cambiasso in midfield with Pandev on the left, Samuel Eto’o on the right, Wesley Sneijder in the centre and with Diego Milito leading the line.

As Mourinho reveals, Inter set up their formation dynamically, as he put it “A different positioning in relation to the movement of Barcelona players, and to analyse our difficulties and after also analysing our possibilities of hurting our opponent”

Mourinho further says, “In some moments of the game, we bring Pandev more to the inside & Eto’o more close to Diego and occupying the central zone with almost a diamond, but giving Eto’o the chance to be more close to Diego.”

The Gabbia and Stopping Messi

As Mourinho elaborates, most of the talk in the Italian media was about Messi and Inter having to stop him at all costs.

“It was with him(Messi) that we started by analysing and trying to predict the game and try to anticipate the problems”, says Mourinho.

Messi’s movement of drifting into midfield from the right and the pockets of spaces around the area were central to Mourinho’s defensive approach.

The tactical issues of Messi drifting inward, which Mourinho recounts as “in between the lines” and Dani Alves bombing forward exploiting the space on the right if Zanetti would track Messi’s inward movement, was Inter’s major problem.

Mourinho made the pivot of Cambiasso and Motta be more aware and “always in control” of the space around them in midfield and “always in communication” with Zanetti with Pandev also tracking back “almost as a left-back” to “track the run of Alves”.

And he further suggests, “There was a combination of ideas, but basically everything was around ‘not (to) let Messi play’”

Smiling rather coyly, Mourinho says “I remember after the game the press was telling about, in Italy they were using the word ‘Gabbia’”’ which Mourinho explains roughly translates to ‘a jail’ i.e a jail for Messi.

Mourinho compressed the Inter midfield so that they would form a diamond in the centre, which was the four-man ‘Gabbia’ to stop Messi.

“In the end, we didn’t play man to man, but Zanetti, Motta, Cambiasso, everybody was responsible for any position that Messi could go,”

“So our defensive approach was based on this positional problem”, says Mourinho.

The Low Block

Mourinho set up Inter in a “compact” defensive “low-block” which has been referred to in the English media, at least when it comes to Mourinho, as ‘parking the bus’. But that aside, Mourinho set up Inter to deny Barcelona clear chances at goal and keep them passing the ball without “hurting” Inter.

Inter were prepared to let Barcelona have more of the ball, and set up defensively in shape to negate their advancements and movements and contain Barcelona’s press, which Barca used to recover the ball high up the pitch after they lost it.

“They are going to have the ball more than us. Much more than us. And we must be mentally strong to cope with that. Let them have the ball but not create many chances”, explained Mourinho.

Letting Barcelona have the ball and forcing them to make more sideways and lesser penetrating passes, was at the core of Mourinho’s gameplan on the night.

Furthermore, when Barca picked a side of the pitch, identifying the key triggers for Inter to press, was also part of the plan.

The Second Phase Of The Plan – Exploiting The Barcelona Full-Backs In Transition

“The second part of the plan was exactly how to hurt them. Because this is the first leg at home. We need to win the match, we need to score goals”, says Mourinho.

Mourinho identified the space in behind the marauding forward runs of Barca’s full-backs Dani Alves and Maxwell, who usually took up very advanced positions on each flank as the key space to attack in transition after Inter won the ball.

The way Barcelona set up, Alves and Maxwell would constantly look to pressure the Inter defence by making overlapping runs down each flank, which was something Mourinho assessed and looked to contain and exploit.

Mourinho set up Inter to counter-attack in transition when they won the ball to exploit the space left in behind the Barcelona full-backs, with quick, incisive breakaways.

Another tactic he used was to design the Inter counters in attacking transition to create more runners from deep, like even their full-back Maicon, to exploit the space left in behind Alves and Maxwell, and the strategy reaped rich dividends on the night.

“We were educated to attack the spaces behind them. Not to be afraid to attack the space where we were to hurt them,” explains Mourinho.

Watch The Full Masterclass On The Coaches’ Voice YouTube Channel 

To understand how Mourinho outwitted and outplayed Barcelona in that game against Pep Guardiola and a Barcelona team that were firmly billed as favourites, you can watch the Masterclass on the Coaches’ Voice YouTube channel in this video below and get a first-hand take from Mourinho himself as he explores the strategy on the night, the tactics, the role of his players, and how they overcame Barcelona in that fateful first leg at the San Siro.

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