'Best coach in the world' insists they've closed the gap
Jose Mourinho delivered a 'that was then, this is now,' message to Barcelona ahead of tonight's Champions League semi-final.
The Inter coach saw his team outclassed 2-0 in the Nou Camp in the group stages in November. But with summer signings Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto'o now fully acclimatised, Inter go into the home straight still gunning for a treble, and in with a decent shout of lifting the European Cup for the first time in 45 years.
"Barcelona showed they were hugely superior to us and they won easily," said Mourinho. "They deserved the victory and we were unable to respond to their superiority but that was November. Barca are still as good as they were back then but what has changed is the way we are playing.
"We are a much better team than we were back then. I understand why everybody seems to have Barcelona down as the clear favourites and that doesn't offend me but when I look at it I see a tie that is balanced 50-50."
Asked if he thought Barcelona's draining coach trip -- enforced by the European no-fly zone -- to Milan would be a major advantage for his side, he said he believed the holders were capable of turning an inconvenience into something positive.
He added: "It is a drama but they will have made the journey fun I am sure and it would have been an opportunity for them to bond even more as a team and be even more united."
However, Barca manager Pep Guardiola was not so sure about the merits of an arduous road-trip, saying: "The trip was not too comfortable for us but we can't let it affect us now. Lots of people have been left stranded in Europe. I would rather spend 14 hours on a coach to play the Champions League semi-finals than have to watch them at home."
Guardiola looked to ease some of the pressure on himself and his players by labelling his opposite number Mourinho as the world's best coach.
Asked about tonight's opposition he said: "We are up against a very good Inter side who have a coach who is possibly the best in the world at the moment." (© Independent News Service)