Once the international break comes to an end, FC Barcelona have an almighty test awaiting them in the form of Inter Milan. The pair play each other back to back in the Champions League and the fixtures are crunch ties, with both teams level on points after two group games. It looks as though Bayern Munich may run away with Group C, after defeating both clubs in their opening two games. And with the Bavarians facing a doubleheader of their own against Viktoria Plzen — which should see them secure six points and qualification to the knockout stages after just four games — it’s highly likely that whoever comes out on top between Inter and Barca will secure second place in the group, and safe passage to the last 16.
But Inter Milan and Barcelona are no strangers to high-stakes grudge matches. Back in 2010, the Catalonians were reigning European champions, after defeating Manchester United 2-0 in Rome the year before. And it looked as though Pep Guardiola’s side were set to retain their crown, in the Bernabeu of all places, home of archrivals Real Madrid. They had already taken four points off their Italian rivals in the group stages, before defeating Stuttgart and Arsenal in the knockout round to seal a place in the final four. The Nerazzurri however were on a roll of their own, defeating Chelsea and CSKA Moscow to set up a date with destiny.
Many had made Barcelona heavy favourites to progress to the Madrid-based showpiece, but they hadn’t banked on a certain Portuguese manager named Jose Mourinho, showing up to spoil the party.
It was no secret that two years prior to the final four showdown, there were two contenders to replace Frank Rijkaard as manager of Barcelona: Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. Many had expected the former Chelsea boss to win the race to the hot seat. He had dominated in England with the Blues and had incredibly led FC Porto to a shocking football moment on par with Greece winning EURO2004 later that summer, by securing the UEFA Champions League for the Portuguese side. But it was former captain Guardiola, manager of the club’s B team, that received the opportunity to lead the Nou Camp side back to glory. And that is exactly what he did.
In his first year at the helm, he won every trophy available to him, leading his team to become the first in the history of Spanish football to win the sextuple, claiming the La Liga, Champions League, Copa Del Rey, Spanish Super Cup, European Super Cup, and Club World Cup. That success vindicated the Barcelona board’s decision. But there was one man who wasn’t impressed — Mourinho. And two years on from that appointment, he would have his chance to seek revenge on President Joan Laporta.
When the semifinal draw paired up Inter Milan with Barcelona, the media knew that the affair would be box office. Just had Guardiola had done the year prior in winning the treble, Inter were on course to become the first team in the history of Italian football to achieve that same feat. And in the first leg at the San Siro, they played like it. Despite falling behind early courtesy of Pedro’s strike, the Italians would come roaring back. Goals from Wesley Sneijder, Maicon, and Diego Milito secured a 3-1 win for the hosts and meaning that it was all to play for in the return leg.
A week later the Camo Nou was a cauldron, and the controversial sending-off of former Barca midfielder Thiago Motta only amped up the atmosphere. But despite the raucous crowd, the visitors held firm and managed to get to the break level at 0-0. As the second half got underway, Barcelona still couldn’t find the breakthrough. It looked as if the goal wasn’t coming, but with six minutes remaining, Gerard Pique — playing as a makeshift striker — managed to break the deadlock.
His side, however, still needed to find another goal and as the seconds ticked away. But it never came. The final whistle was blown and it was Mourinho who had the last laugh, running onto the Camp Nou pitch with his finger aloft celebrating his side’s 3-2 aggregate victory which set up a date with Bayern Munich in the Bernabeu.