When: May 22nd 20.45 CET
Where: Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Madrid, Spain.
The final of Champions League features two unlikely teams in Jose Mourinho's Inter and Louis Van Gaal's Bayern Munich. At the start of the tournament the fancied teams were the defending champions FC Barcelona the losing finalists Manchester United and the hosts Real Madrid, especially after their huge signings including Cristiano Ronaldo aka CR9.
The old cliché "that’s why they play the games" is very apt here.
Inter’s journey to final
Inter was drawn in a tough group with Barcelona, Dynamo Kyiv and Rubin Kazan. Both Barcelona and Inter had a lot of difficulty playing the Russian and Ukrainian champions, especially playing in Kazan in harsh weather conditions. Going into the last game of the group against Rubin Kazan, Inter was still not sure of advancing.
In the end, Inter finished 2nd in the group. They were drawn against Jose's old team Chelsea in the round of 16. Inter hasn’t advanced past this stage in a lot of years, and one of the reasons why Inter spent a lot of money last summer is to mount a serious challenge to win the Champions league. They have won a lot of Scudettos (Serie A titles) over the past 5 years. The first leg at San Siro was an open and entertaining game that ended 2-1. In the 2nd leg in London, contrary to everyone's expectations Mourinho sent out a very attacking line-up. This and the amazing work rate of Milito, Etoo and Motta ensured Inter's passage into the Quarter-finals, where they met one of the surprises of this year, CSKA Moscow. Inter dispatched them home with clinical effectiveness winning both legs 1-0 and set-up the drama-filled semifinal clash with the defending champions Barcelona.
The first-leg of the semifinal at San Siro was fast-paced and fascinating. Inter fell behind early but stormed back to score 3 goals against a lackluster FC Barcelona. Wesley Sneijder and Diego Milito played a blinder of a game. 3-1 first leg. Mourinho parked the bus at Camp Nou to get hold on gamely to the 2 goal advantage. Inter advance despite a loss at the Camp Nou 3-2 on aggregate.
Keys to Inter
The new signings Diego Milito, Thiago Motta and Wesley Sneijder along with Samuel Etoo have made the big difference for Inter. The work rate of Etoo and Milito and their application to defensive duties during key phases of the game have enabled Mourinho to start with 5 attacking players at time. A case in point is the defensive labor of Samuel Etoo in the 2nd leg of semifinal. He had no shot on goal but was constantly putting pressure on Barcelona's midfield. Solidity at the back with seasoned campaigners like Lucio, Samuel and Maicon along with a Julio Cesar in the goal, Inter is a very compact and a versatile team.
Credit goes to the manager Jose Mourinho and the director Massimo Moratti who was instrumental in bringing all the new players.
Watch out for Part#2 covering the journey of Bayern, the keys to the final and the prediction :).
Part #2 will be out in roughly 2 days time.