Friday 19 January 2018

Barca call on fans to rattle Inter


Pete Jenson

BARCELONA fans have been urged to fill the Nou Camp an hour before kickoff on Wednesday night as their team attempt to overturn Internazionale’s 3-1 first leg Champions League semi-final lead.

No sooner had the final whistle been blown in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Xerez than the players returned to the centrecircle wearing T-shirts carrying the message ‘On Wednesday we will give everything’ and supporters were asked to make the difference in the side’s push for a place in the final in Madrid by creating an intimidating atmosphere for the visit of Jose Mourinho’s side.

Pep Guardiola rested six certain starters in the victory over La Liga’s bottom club and Inter followed suit with Mourinho resting seven of his firstteamers in their 3-1 win over Atlanta.

Wesley Sneijder did play and picked up a knock which is not expected to rule him out of the European tie. “We played with our minds on the Inter game,’’ admitted Guardiola after Barcelona’s unconvincing victory that keeps them one point ahead of Real Madrid, who beat Zaragoza 2-1 thanks to goals from Raul and Kaka.

Jeffren Suarez and Thierry Henry fired Barca into a 2-0 lead, before Mario Bermejo’s strike gave the visitors hope. But calm was restored with the hosts’ decisive third goal, scored by Zlatan Ibrahimovic after 55 minutes.

Guardiola claims the players remain as hungry as ever, despite winning everything in their grasp in 2009. “We have come from winning six titles and there is a sensation that if we don’t win the double (league and Champions League) this season, we won’t have achieved anything,” he said.

“Wednesday’s game is unique – for Inter we will have to bring out the pure essence of our football. We will need Barca at our highest level.”

Kaka, meanwhile, returned from a six week injury lay-off for Real’s trip to La Romareda and ended up being his side’s hero as he climbed off the bench to fire home the winning goal.

The Brazilian, who last played in Real’s Champions League defeat by Lyon on March 10, has found himself under fire in some sections this season for his performances since joining for £56m last summer and also during his recovery from injury, with accusations his sights may have been set more on the World Cup than on Madrid’s title bid.

However, Kaka said following the Zaragoza victory: “I’m very happy, it’s been a very special night for me after many criticisms. The best answer is on the pitch.”

Raul’s goal on the ground where he made his debut was his 228th goal for the club, taking him past Alfredo Di Stefano in the list of all-time league scorers. The club captain is now third behind Hugo Sanchez and Telmo Zarra.

Bayern Munich could only pick up a point against Borussia Moenchengladbach ahead of their Champions League semi-final second leg against Lyon. They are now level on points with Schalke 04, who beat Hertha Berlin 1-0 in the Bundesliga but with a better goal difference.

Elsewhere in Serie A, Roma missed the chance to go one point clear at the top after dropping all the points at home to Sampdoria as Giampaolo Pazzini scored twice in the second half to to cancel Francesco Totti’s 15th opener.

Palermo boosted their chances of Champions League football next season with a 3-1 victory over AC Milan. Cesare Bovo, Abel Hernandez and Fabrizio Miccoli were on target for the hosts with Clarence Seedorf grabbing a goal for the Rossoneri.

Palermo moved into fourth, a point above Sampdoria, with Milan six points better off in third spot.

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